Photo: gilkop/Shutterstock

Swimming With Dolphins Has Always Been on My Bucket List. But Here’s Why I’m Glad I Never Went.

by Stella Brown Oct 16, 2015

According to embarrassing video footage from when I was two, my parents immersed me in the water in Mexico and I proceeded to go ballistic the second a captive dolphin named Roxy came near me. I fled out of the water, crying, terrified, and did not go back in for the rest of the day. I’ve always been a little mad at my mom and dad for not trying to see the dolphin situation through that day, because part of the older me always wished I could have had an up-close experience with a dolphin.

There’s not a single person I know who doesn’t like dolphins. But if you love dolphins as much as I do, you’ll never do a swim-with-dolphins program. Here’s a few reasons of how your understandable desire to be with them is actually hurting them:

Dolphins have shown extreme depths of emotion.

I think the worst thing I’ve heard about one of these programs, something that made me want to cry, was that at one facility the mother dolphin would actually block its baby from coming up to breathe and the baby eventually died. The people that worked there who know dolphin behavior believed the mother did this because she did not want her baby growing up in captivity. We must be pretty blind if we can’t see how miserable and sad these dolphins are. One minute they’re swimming with their family and have the entire ocean as their playground, the next they have someone scoop them up in a net and ship them off to live in a pool like a slave robot for the financial benefit of a few humans.

Their living situation is horrid.

SWTD programs can be found all over the world, from hotel resorts to theme parks. But really the only place you should want to see a dolphin is in the wild. The average enclosure size is less than 1% of their natural habitat range. Sure, to the untrained eye they appear happy when you see them doing their little tricks, but the dolphins’ holding pens are not only way to shallow for them, but also far too small. At one particular facility, more than 40 dolphins were caged in three tiny, compact cells. Prison, if you will, except at least human prisoners aren’t expected to drag someone around for treats. Also, the level of chlorine used to maintain the cleanliness of the pools is actually enough in some cases to make a dolphin go blind.

There are also open sea pens, as opposed to enclosed pools, within a resort. But open sea pens are just as bad because debris like nails and fish hooks float in from the ocean, stay there, and the dolphins can accidentally swallow something sharp. Not to mention, you have to admit it would all around suck to go from the ocean to a tiny enclosed pen where someone forces you to do tricks for naive tourists the rest of your life.

The dolphins are under extreme pressure to perform.

This, at times, may make them dangerous to humans. Every day captive dolphins perform the same interactions, the same motions and speeches, the same signals, over and over. This understandably can make them frustrated, and then aggressive to the guests who demand this routine from them. And honestly, whose fault is it if they get aggressive? Certainly not the dolphin’s.

The next time you have the opportunity to swim with the dolphins at one of these programs, think of better ways to go about it. Take up surfing in an area where dolphins are known to frolic. Go on a boat tour in an area where dolphins are known to hangout. Start thinking a little more with your heart and a little less with your desire to post a sweet new Instagram pic. Those pics do not make you look cool or adventurous; they actually make you look ignorant and inconsiderate. Just sayin’.

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