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:
- Will prevent recognized ‘high standard’ facilities to perform at the best level of activity required for scientific research, public education, and ultimately active conservation.
- 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
 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.