GONHS: No Longevity for Dolphins In Capitivity

Last week Mr Clive Reed on behalf of Europa Point Marine Village Ltd. (EPMV) gave an interview to local radio station GBC, claiming that dolphins may live for longer when held in captivity. Our sister charity GONHS now has responded to this claim with a press release, contradicting it on the basis of research.

Read the press release in full length:

Dolphinarium – no questions answered

The latest statement issued last week by Mr Clive Reed on behalf of Europa Point Marine Village (EPMV) Ltd. is an outstanding attempt at disinformation and evasion which does not address any of the major points made by GONHS in its campaign, in particular in its statement last week.

It seems clear that neither Mr Reed nor indeed the recently created EPMV have any experience in any form of animal care or management and this lack of expertise comes across clearly in the statements made by the Company.

The claim that dolphins have extended lives in captivity is false. The claim that dolphins have a significant beneficial effect in therapy is disputed and there is absolutely no evidence that they do. Indeed, such interactions could in fact be dangerous.

The suggestion that EPMV will be able to fill 3000 seats every time the dolphins perform tricks, and keep the 3000 people for long enough to make the venture viable seems economically naïve. The claim of employing over 300 people is likewise unsupported and aimed at diverting attention from other facts. And yet they ask us, and the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society, to present evidence in our favour. Our evidence is in published journals (see the list of references of peer-reviewed papers given at the foot of this statement, and 'The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity', www.wspa-usa.org/pages/1348_the_case_against_marine_mammals_in_captivity.cfm).

The Chronicle quotes Mr Reed as saying that the dolphins to be brought to Gibraltar “will be of captive stock, therefore they will not be captured from the wild”. He does not say that they have been born in captivity, as “captive stock” includes dolphins captured in the past. Nor does he guarantee that the dolphins that would come to Gibraltar would not be replaced by others taken from the wild, hence fuelling demand for dolphin-capture. There are also important ethical considerations, regardless of the provenance of the animals, that Mr Reed has failed to address with his superficial arguments. The reader must consider whether the keeping of eighteen dolphins and seven sea lions, animals that in the wild range over hundreds of kilometres, within Rosia Bay strikes her or him as ethical.

GONHS has stated clearly that it does not object to other aspects of EPMV’s proposals, and so a more Gibraltar and wildlife-friendly facility that will offer employment could be proposed. Why is EPMV so intent on the dolphinarium? Why do they want to bring a large number of captive dolphins and sea lions, which some alarmingly refer to as “animal assets”, to Gibraltar, and do so whether or not the project will be economically viable?

GONHS notes that Mr Reed's statement appears to imply that EPMV Ltd. is involved in dolphinarium facilities in Florida. What facilities are these? To our knowledge EPMV do not own such facilities. Ocean Embassy (OE), the company providing EPMV with “professional services”, according to OE itself, “does not own or maintain any operating marine life parks”. Indeed, they threatened GONHS with legal action for suggesting this. GONHS once again asks the developers to come clean and state clearly who is behind the project, so that their credentials can be scrutinized openly.

Some of the other claims by EPMV are unbelievable and verge on being insulting to the intelligence of Gibraltar’s decision makers.

By stating that in captivity dolphins are protected from diseases and predation, Mr Reed is dismissing decades of conservation work by thousands of individuals and by governments and organisations around the world. Following his logic, all of these have been wasting their time protecting habitats, creating national parks, conducting species conservation programmes and promoting nature conservation. If we follow Mr Reed's warped logic, what should have been done is to round up all the animals and keep them safe from the harmful effects of living in nature by placing them in cages and pens! What an absolute lack of understanding of the natural world Mr Reed and EPMV Ltd. appear to have!

The most incredible statement is that “Captivity itself is not cruel – negligent care is”! Extending that logic, one must assume that we humans should have no objection to spending our lives encarcerated in our splendid new prison. There, we would be protected from harm, with no risk of car accidents or the other hazards of daily life in the wild, we would be fed at regular intervals, have easy access to medical care, and would have the added benefit of having occasional interaction with visitors who will be humbled by the experience. Please Mr Reed! Shame on you for believing that you'd convince the public with such arguments!


  • DeMaster, D. P. and Drevenak, J.K. 1988. Survivorship patterns in three species of captive cetaceans. Marine Mammal Science. Vol. 4, no 4, pp297-311
  • Duffield, D.A. and Wells, R.S. 1991. Bottlenose dolphins: comparison of census data from dolphins in captivity with a wild population. Soundings: 11-15. Spring.
  • Small, R.J. and De Master, D.P. 1995. Survival of five species of captive marine mammals. Marine Mammal Science 11(2): 209-226.
  • Woodley, T. H., Hannah, J.L. and Lavigne, D.M. 1994. A comparison of survival rates for captive and free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), killer whales (Orcinus orca) and beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas). International Marine Mammal Association Inc. Draft technical report no 93-01.
  • Wells, R.S. and Scott, M.D. 1990. Estimating bottlenose dolphin population parameters from individual identification and capture-release techniques. Report of the International Whaling Commission, Special Issue 12.
  • Olesiuk, P.F., Bigg, M.A. and Ellis, G.M. 1990. Life history and population dynamics of resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the coastal waters of British Columbia and Washington State. Report of the International Whaling Commission. Special Issue 12. pp 209-244.