Wednesday, January 18th 2017

We have all been saddened to hear of the death of Tilikum, the infamous orca who was the focus of the ‘Blackfish’ documentary. This film rocked the world and changed the perception of many, stopping them visiting SeaWorld and supporting the tragic captivity of whales, not to mention the unnatural tricks they have been forced to perform for decades. Whilst it is such a sad story that Tilikum was stolen from the wild and lived 34 long years in captivity without so much as a taste of freedom, we must ensure his legacy lives on. Whales continue to be forced to perform around the world on a daily basis and are held captive in tanks, incomparable to the ocean that should be their home.

In 2014 we released our investigation into UK Sea Life centres, aquariums which hold thousands of marine life captive. Whilst conducting our investigation, we discovered that the Shanghai Sea Life centre held three beautiful beluga whales captive: Jun Jun, Little White and Little Grey. We were somewhat surprised given that Sea Life claimed to its customers “Sea Life believes it is wrong to keep whales and dolphins in captivity. No matter how spacious, no captive facility can ever provide such far-ranging, highly social and highly intelligent animals with the stimulation they need for a good quality of life”.

(Visit our SEA LIES website to find out more)

Despite this statement Sea Life’s parent company, Merlin, has since 2006 purchased at least three attractions which housed captive cetaceans (whales and dolphins). In 2012 they bought ‘Chang Feng Ocean World’ in Shanghai which was branded as a Sea Life centre but since the launch of our campaign, the company seems to have distanced Chang Feng Ocean World from the Sea Life brand. We can only presume this is due to the controversy around whale captivity.

Jun Jun, the beluga whale was born in the wild ocean in Russia. As a young whale she was captured and brought to China to live in a tank. She and her two beluga friends are made to perform ‘theatrical’ circus-style shows, trained to swim in circles, ‘sing’ for the crowds and jump for her reward.  Jun Jun, Little White and Little Grey are still performing to this day, although Sea Life claim to be focused on ‘conservation and education’ with shows altered to limit the more unnatural tricks. Back in June 2016, actors were photographed kissing the belugas in a press conference held at the centre about the film ‘Legend of the Naga Pearls’. Hardly progressive for Merlin, the parent company, who claim they are committed to building and relocating the whales to a sanctuary.

Whilst we welcome the talk of the three beluga whales being relocated, we see absolutely no reason for the shows to continue and these intelligent animals to continue to be exploited.

A recent update from Whale and Dolphin Conservation, who are working with Merlin Entertainments to relocate the animals, has stated that if everything goes to plan then the sanctuary they speak of will start being built in 2018 with a view to the belugas being moved in 2019. This is wonderful news if this talk becomes reality – we are sceptical as after all, in 2012 Merlin promised to move cetaceans they acquired from other attractions to a sanctuary. Yet the dolphins are still held in captivity (as far as we are aware) with no further details on the sanctuary they spoke of. Meanwhile, whilst we all enjoy our freedom, the whales in Shanghai have at least two more years in a tank with no enrichment, little space and noisy crowds coming to visit them performing every day.

The least that Merlin can do, if they are really opposed to keeping whales in captivity, is stop the shows while a sanctuary is created.


We are sad to report that Jun Jun has now died in captivity.

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