Dolphin Shows Continue to Operate Across Mexico Despite Ban

Dolphin shows and experiences are common attractions across the Caribbean. Photo: Norman Daust

Despite a ruling by the Mexican Senate banning dolphin shows last year, theme parks and aquariums across the country are refusing to comply.

According to the original plan, over 400 were to be released into the Bay of Campeche, where a federally enforced protection area has existed since 1994.

Several companies based in Cancún and the Riviera Maya are using legal tactics to delay the law’s implementation and are actively working towards its repeal. 

The decision by the Senate also applies to other aquatic mammals, including sea lions, which are common attractions at eco-parks like Xcaret and Xel-Ha. 

Swimming with dolphin experiences has already been banned in many countries, including Costa Rica and New Zealand. Photo: Norman Daust

“Xcaret alone has dozens of dolphins which they train by depriving them of food. They have shown they will resist this new law with everything they’ve as dolphin experiences bring in tens of thousands of dollars for them every week,” said a press statement from the NGO Animal Heroes. 

The average cost of a 45-minute “dolphin experience” in Quintana Roo is roughly US$175. 

Though there is no denying dolphins and other marine animals are cute, animal rights organizations say it’s time to take a principled stand to stop their abuse.

Animal rights groups have also begun distributing flyers detailing the conditions under which dolphins and other marine mammals live in these parks, hoping that people will vote with their wallets to end the practice. 

Earlier: What is behind the growing number of dolphins washing up on Yucatán’s shores?

“These companies have virtually bottomless pockets, and things being the way they are, the only way they will ever really stop is if people wake up to the cruelty the captivity of dolphins represents,” said Quintana Roo-based lawyer Raúl López. 

Like all species of cetaceans, dolphins have been demonstrated to be among the most intelligent animals on the planet, possessing cognitive abilities, including long-term memory and complex language skills.

But the reality is that reintroducing captive dolphins into the wild is not as simple as just delivering them to the ocean.

Hunting for food, navigating complex currents, and evading predators are instinctive behaviors honed through generations, not learned behind glass walls. Social integration with existing pods presents another hurdle, with communication barriers and unfamiliar social structures posing potential roadblocks.

Wildlife authorities and biologists are showing concern over an increase in the number of beached dolphins found on Yucatán’s beaches, including Chelem, Chuburna, and Holbox.

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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