A Look Into China's Cruel, and Growing, Marine Park Industry

A Look Into China's Cruel, and Growing, Marine Park Industry

Due to worldwide public pressure, the notoriously cruel cetacean captivity industry is being challenged. However, China’s confinement of whales and dolphins continues to thrive despite constant opposition.

Recent investigations into the booming Chinese aquarium industry have revealed the horrific abuse and neglect of marine animals. Currently, there are no national laws against mistreating animals, an omission which undoubtedly contributes to the health and quality of life problems for the animals in the over 60 marine parks in China.

In order to supply China’s aquariums, the wild cetacean capture industry is also booming. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), thirteen Russian orcas were captured between 2013 and 2016. Neither Russia nor China have local governmental regulations to monitor the trade, and the nonexistent welfare standards leave the orcas vulnerable to significant abuse and neglect during transportation. The trip from Russia to China can take up to four to five days, with the animals being held in tanks that do not allow them to turn around.

According to the China Cetacean Alliance, an alarming 872 whales and dolphins have been taken into captivity for China’s ocean theme parks since 2014, and trends indicate this number could continue to grow.

“We’ve had great progress in shutting down marine parks in the West but China is saying, ‘it’s my turn now’,” said Ric O’Barry, of the Dolphin Project. In February 2017, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom opened the first orca breeding facility in China, clearly hoping to expand its own operations or to supply orcas to other parks. Ocean Kingdom currently holds nine orcas that were captured from Russian waters. While the breeding facility is not open to the public, construction of the Chimelong’s Marine Science Museum will soon be completed and the doors will open to the public in 2019.

Public perception of captive orcas changed rapidly in the United States, thanks largely in part to the documentary Blackfish. If public opposition comes from within China and internationally, the practice of displaying orcas could (and should) end before it even begins.

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