Born and raised in the Bahamas, the trainer says he was employed at two swim-with-the-dolphin facilities in the Caribbean, and his concerns grew over his tenure. The dolphins’ holding pens were not only excessively shallow, but also far too small. At one facility, he says, more than 40 dolphins were caged in three compact cells.
In the open sea pens — as opposed to enclosed pools within a resort — debris like nails and fish hooks would float in from the ocean, he adds.”Because they didn’t have a vet or any type of veterinary care at [this particular] facility, the dolphins would swallow things, and there would be nothing you could do about it,” he says. Though he witnessed the enclosed pens being cleaned, he claims the smell of the chlorine was so strong, it would “choke” the trainers — and that some of the animals eventually went blind because of its use.
He also maintains that many of the dolphins suffered from ” psychosis,” a behavior not unheard of in marine mammals forced to swim in small pens all day long. They were also under extreme pressure to perform, which may have made them dangerous to humans, he says: “They did 10 interactions a day … the same motions, the same speech, the same signals over and over. They would get frustrated … and aggressive to guests or knock food buckets out of our hands.”
The former trainer’s most troubling allegation, however, is that some female dolphins prevented their new babies from breathing — by stopping them from coming to the surface. The trainer, who isn’t a scientist, said he and his colleagues deduced the mothers did this because they didn’t want their babies to “live in captivity.”
Though that allegation can’t be proven, another former trainer has echoed other worries. Moreover, studies have pointed to some issues with dolphin captivity in general. According to a World Animal Protection/Humane Society of the United States report called “The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity,” cetaceans in captivity are routinely given antibiotics and ulcer medications, are in need of vitamin supplements because they are being fed nutrient-deficient frozen fish and have a history of premature death from a variety of causes.The report also notes that, for many dolphins, enclosure sizes are less than 1 percent of their natural habitat range.