Photo: FAADA
Photo: FAADA

Policy, Advocacy and Campaigning Working Group on Captivity


Daniel Turner, UK

Suzanne Rogers, Change for Animals Foundation, UK


The Captivity Working Group focuses on the rehabilitation and release of whales and dolphins currently held in captivity. The Group is developing resources that will strengthen the work of the WCA and its Partners on issues concerning the captivity of cetaceans.


The Captivity Working Group aims to assist in the work of others and build capacity, adding our weight, as an international alliance of experts, to any campaign or project that is compatible with WCA’s vision and objectives. Ultimately, the Captivity Working Group is the voice for the WCA on all captivity issues and actively opposes the wild-capture, trade and keeping of cetaceans for anything other than their sanctuary.

WCA Captivity Statement:

The World Cetacean Alliance advocates the protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) in their natural habitats in the wild and opposes the keeping of cetaceans in captivity for any purpose other than genuine rescue, rehabilitation and release or sanctuary. Whilst in captivity cetaceans should be housed only under the best possible conditions that strive to meet their physical and behavioural needs.


Captivity: The condition of being imprisoned or confined. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Rescue: Saving or being saved from danger or difficulty. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Rehabilitation: The action of restoring an individual cetacean to health or normal, independent life through training and therapy after imprisonment, or illness. A rehabilitated cetacean may be released into the wild, or provided life-time care in a sanctuary.

Release: To set free a cetacean, following a programme of rehabilitation, whereby the cetacean is released inside its indigenous range.

Sanctuary: A captive facility that provides refuge for cetaceans rescued, abandoned, confiscated or injured that does not allow their cetaceans to breed; be bought, sold or traded commercially; handled; or exploited for commercial gain. Whether housed for the short- or long-term, cetaceans must be housed in the best possible conditions that meet their species-specific welfare needs.

Best possible conditions: Housing conditions that meet the species-specific welfare needs, including physical, psychological and behavioural needs. Recognising that different species have differing welfare needs.


WCA is opposed to:

The sourcing of cetaceans from the wild for display or entertainment purposes;

The display or the use of captive cetaceans for entertainment purposes, which may include, but not limited to, performance;

The use of captive cetaceans in public interaction activities, including Dolphin Assisted Therapy;

The use of captive cetaceans in research, other than that which is proven not to compromise their welfare;

The use of captive cetaceans in military exercises; and

The captive-breeding of cetaceans.

WCA Strandings Statement: 

The World Cetacean Alliance contains various partners who work to provide aid in emergency situations for wild cetaceans, such as stranding events and entanglement. WCA supports on-site best practices in the rescue as a priority and if need be handling and transport.  If euthanasia is necessary this should only be done humanely. Whereas individual evaluation and triage will depend on each group and its professionals, every option should be considered and the animal’s survival should be the top priority, but without putting any person’s physical condition at risk at any time. Cetaceans in need of a long rehabilitation period, or permanent human care, should be held in coastal ocean sanctuaries, and captivity in a zoological/entertainment-focused facility should be avoided.

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