Non-compliance of dolphinaria in the EU


Key Words: compliance of dolphinaria with Directive 1999/22/EC and Regulation (EC) No 338/97 (CITES

Mario Borghezio (NI)

7 November 2013      



Certain animal welfare associations have complained that dolphinaria in the EU, including those in Italy, do not comply with Directive 1999/22/EC relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos.

Currently there are 34 dolphinaria in Europe (in 15 Member States) with 305 cetaceans (small whales, dolphins and porpoises) kept in captivity. In particular, Member States are not meeting their obligation to ensure that zoos play a role in the conservation of species and public education and awareness, and that they accommodate the animals under conditions which satisfy their biological and conservation requirements. The associations also report premature deaths and low breeding success, making the conservation of bottlenose dolphins unsustainable, and none of the current dolphinaria in the EU have released any animals into the wild. Stress and stereotypic behaviour are commonplace. Furthermore, direct contact between the public and cetaceans exposes both groups to significant risk of disease or injury. The report confirms that the survival rates of cetaceans held in captivity are lower than those found in the wild.

Trade figures show that between 1979 and 2008, 285 live cetaceans were imported into the EU despite the ban under Regulation (EC) No 338/97 (CITES) on imports of cetaceans into the EU for primarily commercial reasons. If the number of dolphinaria in the EU remains the same or expands, imports of further wild-caught dolphins may be necessary. This poses a serious threat to cetacean populations in the wild.

Is the Commission aware of the above?

What action will the Commission take to ensure that all EU dolphinaria comply with Directive 1999/22/EC and Regulation (EC) No 338/97 (CITES)?



6 January 2014

Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission

The Commission is not aware of the facts mentioned by the Honourable Member.

The Commission has taken a number of actions to ensure that EU dolphinaria comply with the Zoos Directive(1) and the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations(2).

In that regard, the Commission is examining any well-founded and substantiated evidence that is brought to its attention as regards failures of transposition or implementation of that legislation and, if necessary, will take the appropriate steps. This includes rules applying to imports of wild-caught cetaceans that require appropriate permits and certificates, which can only be issued when the Scientific Authorities in the Member States have established that this would not have a harmful effect on the conservation status of the species in the wild and that it is intended only for breeding, scientific research or educational purposes.

The Commission is also currently preparing the production of an ‘EU Zoos Directive Guidance and Best Practice Document’.

(1) Council Directive of 29 March 1999 relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos. 1999/22/EC.
(2) Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein and Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 of 4 May 2006 laying down detailed rules concerning the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97.