There are currently no captive whales or dolphins (known collectively as cetacea) in the United Kingdom.
In the 1970s there were known to be at least 36 dolphinaria and travelling dolphin shows in the UK. By the mid 1980s, only five dolphinaria remained. In 1985, a review of dolphinaria in the UK, by Klinowski and Brown, was commissioned by the Department of the Environment. This report revealed major inadequacies in the conditions under which cetaceans were being kept. In 1987, the Born Free Foundation and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society published a joint report on UK dolphinaria, exposing the poor conditions in which many of Britain’s dolphins were kept.
This report gave weight to a 1991 campaign called “Into the Blue” in which the Born Free Foundation supported by the Mail on Sunday and other animal welfare groups; campaigned together to close the UK’s remaining dolphinaria. The three “Into the Blue” dolphins, Missie and Silver from Brighton Dolphinarium, and Rocky from Morecambe Marineland, were released back into the wild in the Caribbean.
Sadly, not all of the UK’s captive dolphins were as lucky as Missie, Silver and Rocky, and many were sold to zoos and dolphinaria in other countries.
The overwhelming public response to the “Into the Blue” campaign, together with the findings and recommendations of the UK Department of Environment’s report, led the Government to develop strict minimum standards for UK dolphinaria, covering factors such as pool size, feeding, water quality and handling, which were added as supplementary standards accompanying the Zoo Licensing Act (1981) in 1990. Existing UK dolphinaria were incapable or unwilling to meet the new standards laid out in the legislation, and therefore closed. In principle, it was not illegal to keep cetaceans in this country, but the standards of care outlined were so strict that no establishment in the UK was able to meet them. Since that date, no dolphinaria have been constructed in the UK.