EAAM Statement on Breeding of Cetaceans

EAAM Statement on Breeding of Cetaceans

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, 19 March 2016 – The European Association of Aquatic Mammals (EAAM) was created 44 years ago to bring together zoological parks and professionals devoted to the conservation and welfare of aquatic mammals both in human care and in the wild. From the founding of the peer-reviewed Aquatic Mammal Journal in 1974 to its most recent scientific symposium convened just last week, EAAM’s main goal has always been to promote the sharing of knowledge and best practices pertaining to scientific research, public education, species conservation and management of aquatic mammals.

The EAAM views the breeding of cetaceans under human care as essential to expanding scientific knowledge and to ensure their sustainability and well-being in zoological parks that play a fundamental role in raising public awareness and motivating conservation-minded behaviour. The more that is known, shared and experienced, the more likely the success of efforts to preserve cetacean species from the many anthropogenic threats to their survival. The EAAM therefore regrets the decision made by SeaWorld management to end its Orcinus orca breeding program.

The vast majority of cetaceans in EAAM facilities are bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), a species classified for in situ conservation purposes by the IUCN as “of least concern.” Breeding, together with high quality animal care and modern facilities, has resulted in a self-sustaining population of dolphins that on average live far longer than their counterparts in the wild. More than 70 per cent of the dolphins in EAAM parks in Europe today were born under human care and no wild-caught dolphin has been imported into an EAAM park in more than a decade. All bottlenose dolphins residing in EAAM parks are integrated in a single European studbook and are managed through the collective decisions of experts in the aquatic mammal community for the benefit of the European population as a whole.

EAAM parks based in the EU are accredited in accordance with EAAM Standards & Guidelines and are inspected and licensed by Member State authorities in accordance with national legislation pursuant to Council Directive 1999/22/EC, which recognizes the central role of zoological institutions in public education and scientific research. The Directive requires all zoos to undertake conservation measures including research benefiting the species, training in conservation skills, knowledge sharing, and/or breeding.  A written breeding programme for each animal is mandated by the EAAM and also is obligatory under the laws of a number of Member States.

The EAAM is proud of its members’ contributions to the conservation of cetacean species through public display and related activities and rejects partnering with politically-driven campaign organisations that aim to close down zoological parks altogether through restrictions and bans of one species after another. The EAAM will continue working with bona fide conservation organisations that share EAAM’s commitment to concrete species and habitat conservation and the promotion of conservation-minded behaviour through public education and local action.

SeaWorld is a world-recognized leader in animal care and welfare, cutting edge research, and rescue and rehabilitation work that has helped more than 27,000 animals in need in the wild over the past fifty years. Its achievements are the result of its dedicated animal professionals. None of this would have been possible, however, without the 400 million people who have patronized its parks over the last five decades, including millions who have continued to be inspired and informed by visits to SeaWorld in recent months despite highly financed smear campaigns and untrue propaganda spread by animal rights activists.

The EAAM stands ready and willing to engage in dialogue with the public, government officials, and politicians concerning its ongoing commitment to research, education and conservation of aquatic mammal species, including the breeding of cetacean species housed and managed by European zoological parks.

About EAAM:

 Founded in 1972, the EAAM is a non-profit organisation that brings together zoological parks and professionals devoted to the in situ and ex situ conservation and welfare of aquatic mammals. Visited by more than 21 million people annually, EAAM’s zoological park members in Europe are based in Belgium, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Media contact:

Dr. Javier Almunia, Incoming President, EAAM



Statement about the new regulations on the care of Cetaceans in Zoological settings in France

The European Association for Aquatic Mammals would like to express it’s support to the French Zoological Institutions that properly house and care for cetaceans, seeing that their activities have been put at risk by a recent decree driven by an anti-zoo agenda rather than based on scientific knowledge and facts on these animals.


Three years ago, the French Ministry for Environment, assisted by the French National Museum of Natural History began the necessary work with the French Zoo Association to address an obsolete decree governing the care of cetaceans in zoological settings. After several working sessions, the assembly agreed on a document based on accurate/scientific knowledge on cetaceans and the professional organizations, such as those of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals.


In the latest moment the document was changed without the participation of any marine mammal experts and/or professionals being involved! As a result, the new decree includes some dramatic infrastructure changes with a short time line and also bans the breeding of Bottlenose dolphins and Killer whales in our care!


We, as a scientific organization, are concerned that this decree:


  1. Will prevent recognized ‘high standard’ facilities to perform at the best level of activity required for scientific research, public education, and ultimately active conservation.
  2. Will create a cruel and inhumane situation for the animals in our care, by restricting their natural behaviors.


We urge the French government to reconsider this position and consult the professional experts on cetacean welfare from EAAM, EAZA, and AFDPA.

Statement on Sea Pens/Sanctuaries

The European Association of Aquatic Mammals supports the development of sea pens in Europe for the purpose of rescue and rehabilitation of stranded or ill marine mammals living in the wild where transport, accommodation, and care can be delivered in accordance with best professional practices and in compliance with all laws governing the welfare of marine mammals kept in human care.


Explanatory note:

Increasingly, critics of zoological parks suggest the creation of sea pens or sea cages, i.e., fenced enclosures in open oceans or seas, to hold marine mammals.  Typically publicized as proposals for “sanctuaries” to paint a more appealing public image, sea pen proponents seek to provide space for rehabilitation of rescued animals and/or the relocation of zoo animals.  There are no sea pens in Europe today, however, certain organizations are publicizing their ideas and proposals to build sea pens in various Member States.

The establishment of additional facilities for the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals in Europe is most welcome. The mission of zoological parks includes rescue and rehabilitation of stranded and ill marine mammals and every effort is made to assist animals in distress. Reintroduction is the end goal of every program for all animals that are deemed – preferably by governments – to be releasable. Zoological parks routinely respond to calls by citizens and governments to provide emergency response for sick or compromised marine mammals.  When mass stranding, or natural or manmade disasters occur, however, additional space beyond what zoological parks have available or can improvise, may be necessary.

Some suggest that sea pens also may be used as a stepping stone to release cetaceans currently in zoological parks into the wild.  Even critics of zoological parks agree that dolphins and whales born and/or kept in human care for public exhibition and education are not likely to survive if released into the wild. When marine mammals are rescued and rehabilitated by zoological parks, great care is taken to restrict human-animal interaction to the greatest extent possible to preserve the possibility of reintroduction of animals whose health is restored.



Great care must be taken to plan, create, and operate any sea pen that may be constructed for rescued marine mammals. Sea pens can expose marine mammals to risks of illness and/or disease from toxins and other pollutants in the ocean, as well as viruses.  Storms, strong currents and other weather-related phenomena and underwater noise beyond the control of facility operators also can endanger or disturb animals in sea pens. Where sea pens are used for marine mammals, emergency contingency plans must be available, including the possibility for appropriate transport, relocation, and long-term care in a safe inland facility within hours of detecting significant threats to the health and welfare of the animals.

Whether called zoos, parks, sea pens or sanctuaries, all facilities that hold marine mammals must be managed in accordance with best professional practices as reflected in standards and guidelines adopted by experienced professional marine mammal organizations such as the EAAM. All marine mammals should be transported, accommodated and cared for in accordance with laws and regulations applicable to non-domesticated animals in human care.  Where sea pens are proposed or used for the purpose of public display of marine mammals in the European Union, all additional legal requirements for education, research and conservation should be satisfied in accordance with the EU Zoos Directive.

Statement and Policy on Drive Fisheries

The European Association for Aquatic Mammals (EAAM) condemns the inhumane killing and/or associated taking of dolphins in drive fisheries such as those that take place in Taiji.[1]  There is no dolphin from the Japanese drive fisheries in any EAAM member park today.  Previous intervention by zoological parks to rescue animals already doomed to die as a result of the fisheries was ceased more than a decade ago to avoid any possible misinterpretation of support or encouragement for the fisheries.

The majority of the dolphins in EAAM member parks were born in human care.  Breeding, together with high quality animal care and modern facilities, has resulted in a net increase in dolphins in recent years, meaning that the population in parks in the European Union is sustainable.



Zoological parks that acquire any animal from drive fisheries such as Taiji or individuals who participate in such drive fisheries shall not be eligible for EAAM membership.


[1] The EAAM issued its first statement condemning the drive fisheries in 2007.  This document reiterates and confirms EAAM’s continuing opposition to the drive fisheries and clarifies its policy relative to membership.