Bailey Mason

TBS Next Gen: Empty the Dolphin Tank

What does the next generation think of today’s issues? In our TBS Next Gen program, we publish content by Australian students mentored by TBS writers. This week, Bailey, 14, wonders why we keep dolphins in captivity.


Student: Bailey Mason

Mentor: Jordan Rivkin

Topic: Putting an End to Seeing Dolphins in Captivity

It’s hard to believe that in 2016, dolphins and whales are still being kept in pools. In the wild, dolphins are extremely active, swimming hundreds of kilometers in their pods. Keeping them in concrete tanks to perform unnatural tricks is barbaric. In captivity, they have no stimulation and are deprived of their basic needs such as hunting and swimming in the ocean in their pod.

Many dolphins in captivity come from “drive hunts,” whereby they are herded into shallow coves. From September to March every year, this occurs off the coast of Japan in a small whaling town called Taiji. Dolphin trainers pick the pretty ones and then ship them across the world to perform tricks in marine parks. The rest are brutally stabbed, with some taking up to 30 minutes to die. This appalling cruelty was exposed in the award winning film The Cove. Activist organizations such as Sea Shepherd and Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project continue to travel to Taiji in order to expose the bloody horror of this cruel industry.

Dolphin Marine Magic (formerly known as the Pet Porpoise Pool) in Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia, breeds dolphins in pools. As a result of this cruel breeding program, a baby dolphin by the name of Ji-Ling died when his stomach became littered with leaves, sticks, and a piece of metal that weren’t cleaned from his small, dirty pool. He died just before his second birthday. A staff member reached his hand down Ji’s throat into his stomach to try and get it all out, but Ji suffered a heart attack. The park admits this but refuses to release the autopsy results. The facility also forces 45-year-old Bucky, a rescued wild-born dolphin who is elderly and in remission from cancer, to perform and give heavy tourists rides. He has spent most of his life in a small chlorinated pool.

The other Australian park is SeaWorld on the Gold Coast. It has a good reputation but also breeds dolphins in captivity to perform. There have been reports that in 2015 they announced they would team up with SeaWorld in the United States to make dolphin aquariums in Southeast Asia and China. The absence of animal welfare laws in the bulk of these countries demonstrates that SeaWorld Australia cares very little about animal welfare. Furthermore, SeaWorld in the United States has allegedly had direct links with those involved in the Taiji dolphin capture and slaughter.

Former NSW premier Bob Carr is part of an effort to end dolphin captivity in NSW. He is joined by other politicians and dolphin rights group, Australia for Dolphins, in calling for a bill that would immediately end the breeding program in Coffs Harbour and have the five remaining dolphins relocated to a sea sanctuary, where they will no longer be made to perform circus tricks and will have more room and a natural environment away from chlorinated pools. If this bill passes, they will then head to Queensland in an effort to end dolphin captivity at SeaWorld.

In Coffs Harbour, I attended a protest against Dolphin Marine Magic. It was part of a worldwide initiative called “Empty the Tanks Worldwide,” a protest that occurs in 62 locations across the world. It has been running for four years and keeps getting bigger each year as people are finally realizing that dolphins belong in the ocean, not in captivity. The protest against Dolphin Marine Magic had people as far as Adelaide join in, with many locals also in attendance. Paige Sinclair, CEO of Dolphin Marine Magic, did not respond to our questions, instead staying silent as her friends and supporters threatened us at our peaceful protest, right in front of her eyes.

It’s a very important issue and one that is very close to my heart—it’s truly heartbreaking to see what is happening to dolphins.

I’ll continue this fight against dolphin captivity. Because it’s not cute, it’s cruel.


This article is part of a series for The Big Smoke Next Gen in Australia.

The Big Smoke Next Gen is a program which matches professional and experienced writers, academics, and journalists with students who wish to write non-fiction articles and voice their opinions on what is shaping the nation.

For more information about our program at The Big Smoke, or to become a mentor, please contact us. The Big Smoke America will be launching its own Next Gen series later this year. 




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