Say No to Oahu’s Proposed Swim-With-Dolphins Encounter

In and around the Hawaiian Islands – a part of the world where whale and dolphin watching is not only exceedingly prolific but profitable, it boggles the mind that a captive facility might be in the works.

Unconfirmed reports indicate a new development by Atlantis Resorts is possibly being planned in Ko Olina, on the west side of Oahu. A captive swim-with-dolphins encounter may be included as part of this construction. We hope that such plans won’t be realized, in light of growing condemnation of keeping dolphins and other whales in captivity.

Two captive dolphin facilities already exist on the island: Sea Life Park at Makapuu Point near Waikiki, and Dolphin Quest, in Honolulu. Another Dolphin Quest facility is located at Hilton Waikoloa Village, on the Big Island. All feature dolphin encounters, where participants can enter the water and interact with the mammals. With fees ranging from $99, all the way to $3250 (for “Trainer for a Week,”), people are shelling out big bucks to “cozy up to dazzling dolphins.”*
* Source: Dolphin Quest, Oahu

But where does this cetacean entertainment come from?

No dolphin has ever “volunteered” to leave their pod and their wild world, to be taken into an unnatural, human environment and forced to perform for dead fish. No dolphin has ever chosen a life of captivity over life in the wild.

Terrified dolphins jump over nets to escape, Taiji, Japan, Dec 20-22, 2015

Terrified dolphins jump over nets to escape, Taiji, Japan, Dec 20-22, 2015
Photo credit: Tim Burns/Christine Gau/Dolphin Project

Many captive facilities continue to source their dolphins from the brutal drive fisheries, where dolphins not selected for marine parks and aquariums are slaughtered via hideous means, with trainers and hunters working side-by-side. Evidence of such partnerships can be watched on Dolphin Project’s Livestreams, where our Cove Monitors document the drive fisheries in Taiji, Japan (the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary, “The Cove”), during the hunting season from September to March of each year.

Dolphin trafficking in the Solomon Islands

Dolphin trafficking in the Solomon Islands

In 2008, Atlantis The Palm in Dubai unveiled “Dolphin Bay,” a captive swim-with-dolphins facility. It was branded as “one of the most sophisticated dolphin habitats in the world”* yet failed to reveal the source of their entertainment. In 2007, 28 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were wild sourced from the Solomon Islands and shipped to the luxury facility.
*Source: Atlantis The Palm, Dubai

A similar project was originally announced in 2005, but never came to fruition. In that initial announcement, the development was slated to include a hotel, condominium and timeshare units, as well as a large interactive aquarium and shark habitat.

Hawaii's natural beauty

Hawaii’s natural beauty
Credit: Sanja Vojkovic

Virtually next door to the proposed site is a business offering snorkel tours with wild dolphins. Another five dolphin watching tour operators are within the range of 15 miles. Eighteen different species of toothed whales, along with six species of baleen whales live in the waters around Hawaii. With so much natural beauty and wild dolphins abound, does this proposed facility (with an estimated cost of $2 billion, making it the most expensive report in the world) need to include captive dolphins?

In contrast, in 2002, on the neighboring island of Maui, the City Council enacted Ordinance No. 3109 to ban the exhibition of captive cetaceans. The move was in response to a plan for a dolphin park in a shopping center on the island, referring to the importance of wild dolphins and whales in their waters.

What You Can Do

Sign the petition requesting the State of Hawaii ban cetacean captivity

 Consider making a donation to fund our urgent work.


Letter from Whale and Dolphin Conservation, of which Dolphin Project has signed on, opposing the proposed Atlantis Resorts captive dolphin facility on Oahu.

Thanks to Christine Gau, Dolphin Project, and Cathy Goeggel, President, Animal Rights Hawaii.

Featured image: Spinner dolphins, Hawaii ~ Giles Douglas/Creative Commons 2.0 License

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About Cara Sands

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It might be true that we don't recall many moments from our early years. However, Cara's first memory of a dolphin had her begging her parents to ask the trainer to let the dolphin go! The problem with captivity was evident to her, even as a 4 year-old child.

A writer by trade, Cara has researched, investigated and documented dolphins suffering in captivity. From documenting dolphins incarcerated in buildings, cut-off from fresh air, sunlight and normal socialization to researching cases of animals imprisoned in solitary confinement, Cara is a dedicated dolphin welfare advocate.

It is her belief that education equals empowerment. The more information shared, the better our choices and knowledge of how to act as a positive and respectful voice for dolphins across the world.

Cara is based out of Canada and makes time whenever possible to observe dolphins in their natural environments. She is writing her first fiction novel but knowing her, the marine world will play a prominent role in her book!

"The use of animals for entertainment is nothing more than an abuse of dominance. Some of the most sentient species on the planet have been exploited to incomprehensible levels, all due to their inherent benevolence. Ironic, considering that we turn to the abused themselves for displays of humanity."
~ Cara Sands

Author: Cara Sands


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