Miami Seaquarium Dolphin Swim
Planning to Swim with Dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium Dolphin Harbor in Miami, Florida?
You may be thinking about swimming with the dolphins at the newly constructed Dolphin Harbor exhibit at Miami Seaquarium, but beware! “Swim with the Dolphins” programs are not only harmful to the animals participating but they are also dangerous to the humans involved. Injuries from captive dolphin interactions do not have to be reported by the facility housing them, but they do occur frequently.
I have worked at a captive dolphin facility and know that on many occasions, dolphins have been known to bite, charge, knock over, and make sexual advances to participants in the interactions. When this happens the trainer has no control over the wild animal and not much can be done to prevent injury.
Watch this video to see how many dolphins have died at the Miami Seaquarium:
LIFE AS A CAPTIVE
Captive dolphins are surrounded by people, whether it be their trainers or the general public, for roughly 15 hours per day. In combination with being enclosed in small, barren, cement pools, they easily become stressed, depressed, and frustrated. They display neurotic behaviors, similar to lions pacing in a tiny zoo cage. Captive dolphins swim endlessly in circles, with their eyes pinched closed or sulk listlessly at the surface of their tanks. Dolphins may chew on pipes or pool walls out of boredom.
Dolphins perform monotonous, unnatural (and sometimes dangerous) circus-like tricks for the amusement of audiences everyday. Miami Seaquarium is open 365 days a year. There are no vacations for dolphins! For example, Lolita the orca has performed close to 30,000 shows in her 40 years at Seaquarium.
Read about training methods used in marine parks from a former Seaquarium trainer.
Chlorine and other chemicals in the animals’ tanks can cause their eyes to become irritated and their skin to become raw and slough off.
Tanks become echo chambers. A dolphins’ most important sense is sound through echolocation. The vocalizations bounce right off the pool walls. Loud music played during shows does the same, sometimes damaging their hearing. Imagine living in a room of mirrors (as sight is a human’s primary sense just as hearing is a dolphin’s.) The frustration would be overwhelming.
Even though Miami Seaquarium is not currently capturing dolphins from the wild, they caught dozens of animals over a 40 year period. The dolphins were ripped from their pods in the wild. It was not unheard of for them to die in capture by drowning in the nets. Nursing baby dolphins often were taken from their mothers for a life in captivity.
Between the 1960s and 1993, at least 1,600 whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions were taken from U.S. waters, according to National Marine Fisheries Services records.
Each year, hundreds of dolphins are still caught from the ocean in the Solomon Islands, Japan, Africa, Russia, and Cuba, for parks around the world. As seen in the recently-released, award-winning documentary, The Cove, dolphins are frequently captured for aquariums in brutal blood-baths (shown in the video below). Miami Seaquarium has supported this violent capture method at least twice, obtaining four dolphins, all of which are now dead.
Watch this video to learn more about captures:
Remember that bottlenose dolphins weigh between 750-1,200 pounds and reach lengths of 10-13 feet. Dolphins are large, unpredictable, wild animals, regardless of if they were born in captivity or the ocean.
Needless to say, there have been numerous accounts of dolphins, in Swim with Dolphins programs, attacking and seriously injuring people. Incidents include swimmers have their arms and or ribs broken, being bitten, being body slammed, and being “raked with the animals’ teeth,” according to the Humane Society of the United States.
It is extremely rare for a wild dolphin to ever harm a human being. Marine biologists feel they only attack in situations where they feel threatened, such as in captivity.
Not only can you be harmed by the animals but the animals can be harmed by you! They frequently develop ulcers as a result of stress and are constantly exposed to unnatural, dangerous human bacterial and viral infections. People may touch sensitive parts of the dolphin’s body, by accident, such as their blowholes and eyes. Sun screen, perfumes, and other harmful substances enter the dolphin tanks via tourists’ bodies.
Dolphins may consume items dropped into their tanks, such as sunglasses, “people food,” coins, and plastic bags. These can not only make them ill but can also build up over time, causing internal damages. One dolphin, Poncho, died at Seaquarium of intestinal damage after swallowing: 2 toy footballs, 31 coins, 21 stones, a trainer whistle, a screw, a metal tag, a piece of wire, a staple, and several unidentifiable objects, according to his vet Greg Bossart.
LIFE IN THE WILD VS. CAPTIVITY:
Wild dolphins live 30-45 years, while the average lifespan for captives is just 10-15 years, according to recent Marine Mammal Inventory Reports.
Wild dolphins and orcas remain with their family pods for life. They have been known to sacrifice themselves to save their companions. In captivity, however, these close bonds are shattered. Young calves are taken from their mothers to be sold to other parks or put in another pool. Once an animal is moved, there is a high chance they will never see their family again.
Miami weather is unpredictable! One day it can be a blistering one hundred degree day. The next day, it can be a hurricane with winds 95 miles per hour. Imagine living in a cement pool, with no shade deck or hurricane protection, unable to defend yourself from the elements.
Majestic wild dolphins can reach speeds of 25-30 miles an hour. They swim 40-50 miles per day in the ocean, eating dozens of types of fish and squid. Captive dolphins swim in their pools, day after day, year after year, as the world passes them by.
You can go home after the show. They cannot.
Please refer to this helpful FAQ if you have additional questions.
IN IT FOR THE MONEY:
Miami Seaquarium owns 24 bottlenose dolphins. (More than half of them are involved in the Swim with Dolphins program.) It is estimated that each captive dolphin present draws in about a million dollars in profits per year.
Miami Seaquarium charges $199 (per person, plus tax) to swim with a dolphin for just 30 minutes and $139 (per person, plus tax) to wade in a shallow pool with a dolphin, also for just 30 minutes. The dolphin swim program runs continuously from 9:30 AM to about 5:00 PM. Groups of as many as 14 people may swim with a dolphin at once, leading to a very stressful and uncomfortable time for the animal.
Florida is the center of the United States dolphin captivity industry. Out of the USA’s 35 marine parks, 16 are located in Florida.
WHAT CAN I DO?
The best way to help these animals is: don’t buy a ticket to a marine park. Do not support animal cruelty! If you think this is wrong, please boycott captive dolphin facilities and tell friends and family to do the same! Every dollar given to these aquariums keeps them in business that much longer.