Fears are growing for the welfare of captive dolphins and whales as coronavirus has brought the entertainment industry to its knees.
As facilities face financial ruin due to a massive drop in visitor numbers, conservationists from Whale and Dolphin Conservation warn many animals could be abandoned due to the huge cost of their upkeep.
Some could even sadly die just like Honey, a young bottlenose dolphin, who was left behind at Japan’s derelict Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium. She was found dead in her tiny tank in April after spending several years alone.
Although the captive dolphin industry generates around £4.3billion each year, the money required to look after these animals is drying up without the marine park entry fees for exploitative shows and swimming encounters.
Sea Life Parks in Hawaii has laid off 55 people as a result of the virus. Reports also suggest SeaWorld in Orlando has furloughed 90% of its workforce leaving a question mark over who is taking care of the animals.
Images have recently emerged of contaminated tanks at Dolphin Discovery Puerto Aventuras facility in Mexico.
Dolphins can be seen swimming in water filled with excessive algae growth and other contaminants potentially caused by a lack of filtration and water maintenance. Experts say a tank of around 10-15 captive dolphins will expel the equivalent amount of excrement as 50 humans.
Prior to the pandemic, Dolphin Discovery had around 100 employees working at the Riviera Maya location. Organisation Empty The Tanks says this has now dropped to just 15.
Rehoming whales and dolphins in sea sanctuaries, like the Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary in Iceland, is expensive but the captive industry must now seriously consider the fate of their animals and not leave them to suffer.
Firms such as Virgin Holidays and British Airways have already banned selling tickets to shows. More are likely to follow as the public shuns attractions. Also missing are the many cruise-ship passengers who pre-Covid would fill marine parks in the Caribbean.
This should be the wake-up call needed to ensure no more wild dolphins and orcas are languish in tiny tanks for an industry that could soon be consigned to the history books.