(Featured image: wild dolphins and tourist boat off Lovina Beach, Bali, Indonesia. Photo credit Vladimir E, used under CC BY 2.0)
Letter Addressed To:
Bapak Dewa Made Suardipa
Ketua BPC PHRI Buleleng
Jl. Raya Puputan No 41, Renon
Denpasar, Bali 80235
25th August 2016
Dear Bapak Dewa Made Suardipa,
We are writing on behalf of the Asia for Animals coalition, representing international organisations with extensive knowledge of animal welfare and conservation issues. We express our deep concerns with regards to recent reports dated the 8th August stating that the chairman of the Buleleng chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), Dewa Suardipa, has suggested that ‘middle ocean dolphin cages’ be built in offshore locations near Lovina in order to “optimize” the attractiveness of dolphin tours promoted to North Bali tourist visitors.
We have grave concerns about this development on the grounds of animal welfare, conservation, public safety, and the negative image that it will portray of Bali globally.
Every year thousands of domestic and international tourists visiting Bali’s north coast pay local boatmen to take them on early morning boat tours in search of the pods of wild dolphins that live in the area. Dolphin-watching encourages local businesses, carries a sound conservation message that dolphins belong in the wild, and, when conducted responsibly, is environmentally and economically sustainable.
Bali has already received a huge amount of national and international condemnation, as media reports around the world document the wholly unsuitable conditions under which captive dolphins are kept in Bali – and throughout Indonesia – in swimming pools and ‘sea pens’, resulting in immense animal suffering.
Globally, we are seeing an ever-growing number of countries passing laws prohibiting the capture and keeping of cetaceans in captivity, in recognition of the risk the trade in – and keeping of – these animals poses to animal welfare and conservation.
The news of the proposal to keep dolphins that are currently wild, and provide a great source of joy to tourists and income to local fishermen, in sea pens is in direct opposition to the current international trend, and in breach of national laws that prohibit the deliberate capture and keeping of protected species, including dolphins, in captivity.
If this proposal is authorised, it will therefore be seen as a backwards step for such an internationally-focused island as Bali. It is also likely to lead to a significant amount of negative press associated with this development and the subsequent incarceration of wild dolphins.
Increasingly, the capture and keeping of dolphins in captivity is being opposed by the international community, based on the significant conservation, animal welfare and public safety concerns that this industry presents.
The removal of individual dolphins from wild populations has serious animal welfare as well as potential conservation implications for the survival of the targeted populations. Certain live capture techniques are extremely traumatic and violent , but all share the following characteristics:
- Families are separated from each other;
- Dolphins can be injured and killed during the capture process;
- Studies are rarely conducted to ascertain what happens to those animals left behind;
- Once removed from their natural environment dolphins are transported to small enclosures which lack not only their families and social groups but also the open space to which they are accustomed;
- Research shows that death rates increase six-fold during and immediately after capture.
Once confined, dolphins must adapt to an artificial diet, excessive noise and the proximity of people. No commercial captive facility – whether it is a sea pen or swimming pool – can provide for the needs of dolphins. They are social and wide-ranging animals, capable of swimming up to 60 miles a day, attaining speeds up to 22 mph, and diving to several hundred feet. Captivity presents a lack of the social, visual and auditory stimuli of their natural environment, and many suffer from the stress of confinement, often resulting in increased aggression, illness and death. 
Allowing the public to swim with dolphins presents additional concerns for both the dolphins and the public. Dolphins have been observed demonstrating signs of stress when they are in close proximity to people. The dolphins are rarely provided with a refuge area and without one, they cannot escape from human swimmers they do not want to interact with. These dolphins are often fed inappropriate foods, and are at risk of injury and death from ingestion of foreign objects. Observers have seen the public placing objects such as glasses, paper, stones, coins, bottle tops, metal souvenirs, and even a baby pacifier into the mouths of dolphins or offering wristwatches and cigarettes.
Many dolphins in such facilities exhibit behavioural traits which make them unsuitable to be used within human-animal interaction sessions. Dolphins are wild and unpredictable animals. People have been injured, sometimes seriously, swimming with dolphins. The public may also be at risk of transmitting diseases to, and contracting diseases from, dolphins. A survey of people who came into regular contact with marine mammals resulted in 23% of respondents reporting the development of skin rashes or similar ailments.
We strongly urge you to intervene so as to ensure that this proposal goes no further, on the grounds of animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and in recognition of those in Lovina whose livelihoods rely on taking tourists to view dolphins in their natural habitat.
Bali should celebrate the wild populations of dolphins that inhabit the coastline and who present an increasingly unique opportunity to view dolphins in the wild, thereby sending a clear message to the international community, and the many tourists that visit Bali each year, that the keeping of cetaceans in captivity poses a significant risk to animal welfare, the conservation of wild dolphin populations and public safety.
Sent on behalf of the following organisations:
- Animal Guardians
- Animal People
- Animals Asia Foundation
- Animal Welfare Institute
- Blue Cross of India
- Change for Animals Foundation
- Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations
- Humane Society International
- International Animal Rescue
- Philippine Animal Welfare Society
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (UK)
- Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hong Kong
- Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sarawak (Malaysia)
- World Animal Protection
Menteri Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan RI
Gd. Manggala Wanabakti
Jl. Jenderal Gatot SUbroto, Senayan,
 C. S. Vail and D. Risch Driven by Demand: Dolphin Drive Hunts in Japan and the Involvement of the Aquarium Industry (Chippenham, United Kingdom: WDCS, 2006) http://www.wdcs.org/submissions_bin/drivenbydemand.pdf
 R. J. Small and D. P. DeMaster, “Acclimation to captivity: A quantitative estimate based on survival of bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions,” Marine Mammal Science 11 (1995): 510–519
 A. Samuels and T. Gifford, “A qualitative assessment of dominance relations amongst bottlenose dolphins,” Marine Mammal Science 13 (1997): 70–99
 K. A. Waples and N. J. Gales, “Evaluating and minimizing social stress in the care of captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus),” Zoo Biology 21 (2002): 5–26.
 The case against marine mammals in captivity, WSPA/HSUS 2009; http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/marine_mammals/case_against_marine_captivity.pdf p.27
 The case against marine mammals in captivity, WSPA/HSUS 2009; http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/marine_mammals/case_against_marine_captivity.pdf p.29/30
 T.D.Hunt et al., ‘Health risks for marine mammals workers,’ Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 81 (2008); 81-92