Dolphin plan is suicidal for ambitious Danang says Animals Asia

13 October 2015

Da Nang view

Plans to build a dolphinarium in Danang, Vietnam are “old fashioned” and would lead to a drop in tourists and investment, making it a suicidal move for the city.

That’s the verdict of animal welfare charity Animals Asia which has written to city leaders to advise against the plans for a dolphin “theme park”.

It follows news that Russia’s Utrish Dolphinarium Company Ltd has proposed plans for a centre where wild-caught dolphins would be kept in captivity, forced to entertain the public and made to swim with visitors. These are all actions that would hurt the dolphins – potentially even proving fatal – say Animals Asia.

There is a growing international backlash against keeping marine mammals in captivity. In America, SeaWorld saw profits drop in the second quarter this year by 84%. It follows the international hit documentary movie Blackfish that exposed SeaWorld’s treatment of killer whales and how conditions compromised animal welfare. Since then a number of businesses have stopped partnership with SeaWorld and celebrities have cancelled SeaWorld events as the brand becomes increasingly toxic.

Animals Asia said that the old-fashioned nature of such a complex was in direct contrast to Danang’s reputation as a forward-thinking city.

Dave Neale, Animal Welfare Director for Animals Asia, explained:

“There’s an ever-increasing body of research that shows capturing dolphins from the wild is cruel and causes a significant amount of suffering Keeping dolphins and other cetaceans in captivity is harmful to them and increasingly it’s something that people don’t want to be a part of. 

“The last place we expected such a facility in Vietnam was Danang. We believe Danang’s reputation, as a modern city would be at risk if this plan was to go ahead. Increasingly countries are turning their back on keeping marine mammals this way. It would be suicidal for Danang effectively ending any attempt to market the city as an eco-friendly location.

“The awareness created by Blackfish has created increased bad publicity for SeaWorld and other venues that keep marine mammals captive. It has meant people turning their backs on this attraction. City leaders can point to this as inward investment but at what cost?  What would this cruelty say about Danang – a city that has said it intends to expand with the environment in mind? Aren’t dolphinariums a little too old-fashioned for Danang? We ask city leaders to think again and say no to these plans. Danang’s reputation and future should not be signed away so cheaply.”

A number of countries now have regulations which either ban or restrict the keeping of cetaceans in captivity. Croatia, Cyprus, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland, Chile and Costa Rica have all banned either keeping dolphins in captivity or importing dolphins for that purpose.  Meanwhile in 2013, India passed legislation prohibiting the development of dolphinaria and referring to dolphins as ‘non-human persons’. Greece banned animal performances in 2012, whilst the United Kingdom has no captive facilities.

Danang has publicly claimed it intends to become Vietnam’s most modern city by 2030, with improved infrastructure, a relocated railway station, and airport improvements listed among future plans. The creation of a regional medical centre, university village, sports and entertainment centre, international shopping complex and more luxury resorts and hotels are aimed at further growing prosperity and inward investment.

Mr Neale added:

“Part of the success story of Danang is that it has not been afraid to turn away projects that don’t fit its template for on-going growth – in particular those that might damage the local environment or future city sustainability. In this respect it has led Vietnam.

“It would be foolish to overlook the potential long-term economic effects of accepting the plans for a dolphin park. It could easily jeopardise future investment in Danang by investors who might see this as tarnishing Danang’s reputation as a progressive city. In addition - in one stroke – any hopes for developing eco-tourism would be gone.”