The Web of Life (113-1) Marine Mammal Captivity


Visitors to commercial oceanariums can only be impressed by the easily learned tricks that humans have forced upon otters, seals, dolphins, and whales to perform. What visitors do not see is the toll that imprisonment takes on the inmates of an oceanarium.

Marine mammals consistently have a high death rate in captivity from sensory and social depravation, and from emotional depression. In the wild, an orca easily roams 200 kilometers a day with family and friends. In a tank, an orca is lucky to travel 90 meters, with another prisoner or 2 in the cell-tank. In the wild, male orca whales live 50–60 years; females 80–90.

At Sea World in San Diego, which has the best track record of keeing marine mammals alive, an orca might last 6 years or less. The record goes to a female captured at 3 years old, lasting 15 years in captivity before succumbing.

It is not unusual for imprisoned orcas to commit suicide by ramming themselves against their concrete enclosures. Infants born in captivity typically die within months.