Two Alaskan sea otters are to be transported by land and air 5,000 miles across the Atlantic ocean to spend the rest of their lives in a small tank in Birmingham, it has been revealed. The mustelids will be transferred to Birmingham SEA LIFE centre next year.

The Curator at Birmingham SEA LIFE centre, Jonny Rudd, said that the sea otters’ arrival will give the public a ‘a sense of connection to nature and wildlife from across the globe’, however this is far from the truth. Watching animals display unnatural behaviours in small artificial enclosures thousands of miles from their home provides the public with very little education about the life that these animals should be enjoying.

Claims by the centre that this initiative aids the conservation status of the sea otter, who are listed as endangered on the IUCN’s Red List predominantly as a result of being hunted for their pelts, are extremely dubious. Whilst SEA LIFE’s PR team like to present their aquaria as beneficial to global conservation efforts, the reality is that an extremely small amount of monies raised goes towards preserving natural habitats and the species that depend on them. For example, in 2012, SEA LIFE’s parent company Merlin Entertainments’ reported revenue was £1,074,000,000. However, of that there was only concrete evidence of just £250,000 being spent on in situ conservation projects, amounting to just 0.02% of Merlin’s total revenue or less than three pence per visitor. 

Members of staff at the Birmingham SEA LIFE centre have voiced concerns over animal welfare breaches in the past. According to one staff member, deliveries of livestock from SEA LIFE’s supply base to the centre were previously cancelled after an employee was reportedly ‘disgusted by the condition that the areas and tanks were kept in.’

In another claim from staff, in 2014 just a few weeks after a new Gentoo penguin enclosure was opened, one of the penguins swam into an underwater viewing panel and died instantly. An employee also reported that the penguins at Birmingham SEA LIFE Centre showed signs of stereotypic behaviours, caused by the severe stress and boredom of being confined in a totally inappropriate environment.

Freedom for Animals’ Director, Sam Threadgill, said; “The transferral of these two sea otters to Birmingham SEA LIFE centre is nothing to celebrate. They have been transported halfway around the world only to be held captive for the remainder of their lives as part of a cynical marketing ploy.”

Freedom for Animals carried out an extensive undercover investigation into the SEA LIFE chain in 2013. As well as exposing serious welfare concerns for animals, the investigation revealed how animals are still taken from the wild to stock tanks and how false and misleading information is given to visitors. 

Learn more about the SEA LIES campaign here. https://sea-lies.org.uk/sea-lies-investigation-2014/