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j_999_9 Jul 21st, 2005 06:14 AM

Swimming w/dolphins: bad idea?
I just finished reading something about how dolphins are "harvested" to supply swim-with attractions, and it wasn't pretty.

In summary, the piece said dolphins are trapped, then the younger ones are taken from their pods and mothers, while others may be killed or injured during the hunt.

I'm not some raving environmentalist, but if the story is true, that sure takes the shine off the swim-with idea. Has anyone else heard or read anything like this?

iamq Jul 21st, 2005 06:19 AM

Yes, it's a bad idea. These mammals should be seen and appreciated in their habitat.

JJ5 Jul 21st, 2005 06:22 AM

There have been several threads on this in Fodors lately-search "dolphin swim".

Observing this in several places in the Caribbean and in a huge National Park in Cozumel- I was underwhelmed myself.

They are in very large screened / fenced areas and the people to dolphin ratio is too much, IMHO.

When I swim in my lake in Michigan I am often accompanied by one huge turtle, scores of blue gill and perch in my face etc. But I wouldn't do a dolphin swim because it just seems too forced and artificial to me.

I've read that their longevity is actually longer than in the wild, but what about the quality??

follow_your_bliss Jul 21st, 2005 06:22 AM

Yes, it's true. I actually saw a show (don't remember which channel) that showed the dolphins being trapped. They force the dolphins to swim toward the shore, then trap them in shallow water. Several of the dolphins were killed or injured--the water was red from blood.

I've always been intrigued by dolphins and had planned on scheduling a dolphin swim into our Mexico vacation, but after seeing that show, no way!

suze Jul 21st, 2005 06:53 AM

It is a horrible thing. If you do a little research you will find all kinds of information why it is bad practice.

You can see dolphins, like you can whales, by taking a boat trip and seeing them in their natural habitat. You don't need to swim with them held captive at Dolphin World or whatever.

viamar Jul 21st, 2005 09:31 AM

Almost every time that I take a morning walk on the beach I see a pod of dolphins. No matter how many times I see them it's still so exciting. Sometimes they are just cruising along. Sometimes if the sun is out they take turns jumping straight out of the water and over the waves. To put one of these animals in pool would be a crime. I understand the desire to swim with a dolphin, but it's so forced and artificial. I think once someone sees a dolphin in the wild and with their family they would never want to see them in a pool. That goes for trained orcas as well. One of the child actors ( who is now an adult) from the TV show Flipper is working really hard to get abused captive dolpins released.

nytraveler Jul 21st, 2005 09:59 AM

These are wild animals. They're doing this becuase they've been captured and are being forced to. It's not their idea and given the choice they would undoubtedly rather be back with their pods. And most die within quite a short time of capture.

Another thing that some people overlook is the potential for an injury to the swimmers. These are large animals with nice sharp teeth - and are not domesticated - that's why they make you sign a waiver of responsibility before you're allowed to take part.

Diana Jul 21st, 2005 10:21 AM

They are incredibly cruel. I did it once and have been sorry ever since. No matter how clean or nice it looks, more than half of the dolphins die within 60 to 90 days of capture.

In order to make an informed decision, please visit:

(The second site is the Humane Society of the United States' position on SWTD programs.)

suze Jul 21st, 2005 10:33 AM

<I've read their longevity is actually longer than in the wild,>

I don't think that is correct (well you may have read it somewhere but I do not believe that it is accurate or fact), I'm pretty certain that statistics show dramatically shortened life spans in captivity.

Jolie Jul 21st, 2005 10:49 AM

My roommate in college worked for a legitimate scientific organization that studied dolphins. They had very strict rules on when you could interact with them. Their skins are more delicate than you think, and no one was allowed to touch them unless their nails were filed down low and smooth. You could not wear jewelry, perfume, sunscreen, or even deoderant. I seriously doubt the commercial "swim with dolphin" programs bother to have or enforce these type of rules to protect their dolphins.

Then you have the marine mammal entertainment centers that "accidentally" allow wolphins (killer whale-dolphin mix) to happen. This does not occur in the wild. At worst, they are deliberately tampering with nature to create an exploitable commodity; at best, they don't care enough for the dolphins to keep them seperate from the killer whales.

I hate, hate, hate, these type of organizations.

SAnParis Jul 21st, 2005 10:53 AM

I am pretty sure the dolphin isn't benefitting from the practice. That's how I always kind of decide on issues such as this.

JJ5 Jul 21st, 2005 11:06 AM

I've just looked up the longevity issue. Lifespan is 25 to 40 years but very rarely do they reach 40 in the wild. But if you count all the diseases etc. resulting from captivity, it is about a wash. So says two sources I read, but I do not think they know- nor is that definitive. Still it is a forced and captive life regardless.

There are actually quite a few species that live longer in captivity. My cockatiel is one. He's 24 and would never, ever have lasted that long in his homeland. Parakeets in Australia only last 2 years.

Poohgirl Jul 21st, 2005 12:08 PM

This was an interesting thread. It has always been one of my dreams to swim with dolphins, but after reading this I think it will have to remain a dream.

Chele60 Jul 21st, 2005 12:26 PM

While I think it would be appealing on the one hand, what it would take to make this happen would destroy whatever joy I would gain from it. I don't know how people can overlook that, but I guess many do because it's a booming business.

Living near the beach, I know I always get a thrill when I catch a glimpse of dolphins out beyond the waves or swimming along the bow of a boat. They are beautiful animals and should be left in the wild where they belong.

christy1 Jul 21st, 2005 12:48 PM

It blows me away that attractions like this, or Sea World for that matter, are so popular. Video of dolphin and whale capture are heartbreaking, and I don't understand how the general public who flock to these attractions can ignore the facts raised in this thread. How can anyone think it's okay for marine mammals to live in tanks so that people can watch them jump through hoops or swim with them?

viamar Jul 21st, 2005 01:46 PM

You are right that swim with dolphin programs are big business. It's so popular w/ tourists in the Caribbean that resorts pay fisherman to capture wild dolphins. I saw were one resort had 2 sick dolphins in this tiny filthy pool. It was so bad that the government had their navy rescue them and set them free.
I'm sure the people who pay to swim with dolphins wouldn't do it if they knew the situation.

crefloors Jul 21st, 2005 04:23 PM

Well, the good, and I'm not sure that the "good" out weighs the bad, but being able to get that close with the animals makes some people actually aware of them for the first time and begin having the repect for these animals that they deserve, and more respect for nature in general. The downside is, that these programs do NOT benefit the animals that actually have to participate in them. I can't remember where it was but I walked over the the site where people were swimming with the dolphins, and the pools that these animals had to live in were much too was horrible. Personally, I think their has to be a better way to raise peoples awareness. I would never participate in one of those programs.

kswl Jul 21st, 2005 07:05 PM

I don't believe there is any consciousness raising possible in a person who would do such a self-indulgent thing, except possibly for someone who realized how wrong it was, like one of the posters above.

Diana Jul 22nd, 2005 03:31 AM

As I posted earlier, I did this years ago and have suffered with my conscience ever since - so much so that I have made it kind of a mission to do what I can to help educate people how bad the swtd programs really are.

I learned along the way that berating, scolding, name-calling and insulting aren't nearly as effective as providing legitimate information to people so they can see for themselves what the issues are and make their own decisions.

In my case, I had wanted to do it for years but had the nagging feeling it was just wrong. Every time we vacationed, I checked into the places that offered it and passed.

Finally, in about 1993, I found a place in the Bahamas (UNEXSO) where I could do an open ocean SCUBA dive with a dolphin that I was assured "could come and go as it pleased." Only after paying $150 along with 30 other suckers to watch the obviously-very-hungry dolphin perform stupid stunts for food for a half an hour did I find out that the reason they always come back is that they have lost the ability to hunt and obtain food on their own in the wild. :(

So please, do educate yourselves (and others) about this practice.

(As an aside, I know of NO legitimate research centers that allow in-the-water interaction with their dolphins and the public.)

Don't get me started on Sea World. "Breakfast With Shamu" is beyond disgraceful...

stella45 Jul 22nd, 2005 04:04 AM

Instead, how about diving with dolphins in the wild? This was a big reason I learnt to dive (my husband's main reason was to dive with sharks). You get to see dolphins a lot on the boats to and from dive sites, playing in the bow waves, and then very rarely you get to see one underneath the water. They look really muscley under the water - more intimidating than sharks, actually, and they move so fast you can feel the whoosh as they whisk past you. You can tell when a dolphin's coming because all the fish scatter, whereas they don't scatter nearly as much for sharks!

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