Born Free first worked to expose the plight of captive whales and dolphins (known collectively as cetaceans) more than 30 years ago. 

We investigate captive facilities, expose poor welfare and cruelty, challenge the construction of new dolphinaria and raise awareness of the issues. 

Find out more below:


Over the years, Born Free has investigated a significant number of captive cetacean facilities around the world.

In 1987, Born Free and Whale and Dolphin Conservation 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 Born Free’s campaign Into the Blue in 1991, which saw the closure of the last UK dolphinaria and the rescue and release of the country’s last captive dolphins back to the wild. 

The overwhelming public response to Into the Blue, together with the findings and recommendations of the UK Department of Environment’s report Klinowski and Brown’s Review of Dolphinaria, led the UK government to develop minimum standards for dolphinaria, covering factors such as pool size, feeding, water quality and handling. Since then, no dolphinaria have been constructed in the UK and the country has remained captive cetacean free.

In 2011, Born Free and Whale and Dolphin Conservation published the results of investigations into the status and performance of 18 dolphinaria across the EU. It revealed that dolphinaria were generally failing to meet the requirements of EU legislation, which aims to protect whales and dolphins in captivity.  

Born Free has continued to conduct further investigations into dolphinaria across the world, visiting captive facilities, gathering information and assessing animal presentations and shows.  

We encourage the public to raise their concerns about captive cetacean facilities they may have visited and to report it to us.


While there is no global legislation specific to the keeping of cetaceans in captivity, some countries – such as Croatia, Cyprus and Slovenia – have bans in place due to the commercial nature of dolphinaria. In 2013, India passed legislation prohibiting the development of dolphinaria, referring to dolphins as “non-human persons”. 

In other countries without specific bans on cetaceans in captivity, lack of knowledge and poor enforcement allows dolphinaria to persist. 

International trade in cetaceans (wild and captive-bred) is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES was established to ensure trade in all animal and plant species listed in its appendices is not detrimental to the survival and viability of local, regional and global wild populations. Common species, bottlenose dolphins, orca and beluga whales are listed in Appendix II of CITES. 


Our #TankFree campaign aims to raise awareness about the plight of captive cetaceans and to appeal to those thinking of visiting a dolphinarium not to buy a ticket.

We also highlight the issues with individual country authorities and the travel industry.


Born Free works with like-minded NGOs and individuals to take action for captive cetaceans.

Born Free is a member of the Dolphinaria-Free Europe coalition, established in 2014, representing a global community of NGOs and professionals working together on behalf of cetaceans throughout Europe. 


Born Free continues to challenge and oppose the captivity of cetaceans. Our work aims to:

  • Appeal to Governments worldwide to phase out the keeping of cetaceans in captivity
  • Challenge plans to build new exploitative captive dolphin facilities 
  • Lobby for higher standards of protection for the animals housed in existing facilities
  • Investigate the status and performance of captive dolphin facilities against their legal requirements
  • Appeal to the international travel industry to cease promoting cetacean captivity and public interactions
  • Expose the dangers of direct interaction with dolphins, and other marine mammals
  • Seek viable, humane alternatives for captive cetaceans that safeguard their welfare and protection, by supporting the development of cetacean sanctuaries. 


Images: © BFF/J McArthur, © BFF/ Aaron Gekoski, © George Logan


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