Aquariums and Marine Parks

Could you imagine being torn away from your family and forced to live your whole life in a tank the size of a bathtub? Welcome to the world of many of the orcas and dolphins stuck at SeaWorld and other marine parks.

Orcas, often known as “killer whales,” are the largest marine animals held in captivity, and at places like SeaWorld, these highly intelligent animals are forced to live in concrete tanks that, to them, are the size of a bathtub. In the wild, orcas stay with their mothers for life. Heartbreaking photos given to PETA have shown how orcas at SeaWorld, the Miami Seaquarium, and Marineland in Canada were trapped in the wild, torn away from their families, and forced to travel thousands of miles to spend the rest of their lives performing tricks in exchange for food.

Dolphins in captivity at marine parks can also come from Japan, where fishers round up and slaughter approximately 23,000 dolphins and small whales each year. Once trapped inside the cove, the fishers kill the dolphins by cutting their throats with knives or stabbing them with spears. The water turns red with the dolphins’ blood, and the air is filled with their screams. Young dolphins are sometimes spared and sold into the aquarium or entertainment industry.

While trainers may genuinely care about animals at the marine parks, the truth is that confining these animals is inherently cruel and parks like SeaWorld exist to make money—not to save animals. Many trainers are naïve, misinformed, and ill prepared to handle emergencies. At SeaWorld Orlando in 2013, a pilot whale got stuck on the shallow platform that SeaWorld uses to pose the animals. As horrified guests screamed, “The dolphin—he’s stuck!” the announcer casually noted that the whale would get back into the pool on his own. Carlo De Leonibus, the person who posted the video, said that SeaWorld employees brushed him off when he alerted them to the situation and that the whale struggled for 20 to 25 minutes before two trainers arrived and pushed him back into the water.

Confining these large, psychologically traumatized animals is not only cruel but also dangerous to humans. Tilikum—an orca who was torn away from his family and home in the wild when he was a baby—has killed three people while confined at various marine parks, including SeaWorld. He has been confined for 30 years and has spent some of those years in complete isolation.

Empty the Tanks

Every ticket purchased to a marine park or aquarium that confines and exploits wild animals contributes to their suffering. NEVER purchase a ticket, and share the truth about SeaWorld and other marine parks with everyone you know.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Aquariums and Marine Parks 

  1. In the wild, dolphins can live into their 40s and 50s.1 But more than 80 percent of captive dolphins whose ages could be determined died before the age of 20.2
  2. Florida’s Sun-Sentinelexamined 30 years of federal documents about marine animals and found that nearly 4,000 sea lions, seals, dolphins, and whales have died in captivity, and of the 2,400 cases in which a cause of death was listed, one in five animals died “of uniquely human hazards or seemingly avoidable causes.”3
  3. A marine-mammal behavioral biologist in Seattle says that “dolphins in captivity can exhibit self-inflicted trauma” and that some drift at the surface of the water and chew on concrete until they’ve destroyed their teeth.4
  4. To trap a female dolphin of breeding age, boats are used to chase the pod of dolphins into shallow waters, where the animals are surrounded with nets that are gradually closed and lifted onto the boats. Unwanted dolphins are thrown back. Some die from shock or stress, and others slowly succumb to pneumonia when water enters their lungs through their blowholes. In one instance, more than 200 panicked dolphins who had been corralled into a Japanese fishing port crashed into boat hulls and each other, becoming hopelessly entangled in nets during their attempt to find an escape route. Many became exhausted and drowned.5
  5. There’s nothing natural at SeaWorld—trainers even sexually stimulate the male orcas in order to collect their sperm and forcibly impregnate the females. An orca at SeaWorld named Katina was forced to breed when she was only 9 years old (at least five years earlier than she would have naturally bred in the wild). Now she is used as a virtual breeding machine and is even being inbred with her own sons.6

What you can do to help: 


1Sally Kestin, “Experts, Parks Debate Animal’s Ages of Death,”Sun-Sentinel 16 May 2004.
2Sally Kestin, “Not a Perfect Picture,” Sun-Sentinel 16 May 2004.
3Kestin, “Not a Perfect Picture.”
4Kestin, “Sickness and Death Can Plague Marine Mammals at Parks,” Sun-Sentinel 17 May 2004.
5Public Broadcasting Service, “A Whale of a Business,” Frontline 1998.
6David Kirby, Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity, New York: St. Martin’s, 2012.



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