Dolphin Quest: Misinformation And Lack Of Transparency With The Public

keiko conservation dolphin quest hawaii bermuda kahala resort hilton waikoloa sea life park taiji dolphin captivity jay sweeney


Claim: They are a "wildlife sanctuary."

keiko conservation dolphin quest hawaii bermuda kahala resort hilton waikoloa sea life park taiji dolphin captivity

Reality: Their dolphins are the captive bred offspring of the original 8 dolphins they captured upon opening. It only cost $200 to acquire the permit from National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and you can view it below in sources. Lono (Kahala Resort), Iwa (Hilton Waikoloa), Pele (Hilton Waikoloa), Kona (Hilton Waikoloa), and Cirrus (Bermuda) are all wild captures and still alive at their facilities.

-NOAA Permit To Capture 8 dolphins for Dolphin Quest

Claim: Their dolphins participate in the swim-with-dolphin programs voluntarily.

"Trainers insist the dolphins are not forced to interact with humans. If the captive dolphins didn’t like being petted and played with by strangers all day long, 'they wouldn’t do it.' Dolphin Quest training manager Jo Hay said.

"Still, if dolphins do not voluntarily swim from their holding tank to the open lagoon where humans are waiting for them, a net is used to force them out. 'They are like children. They’ll test you- like saying, 'Do I really have to do this?' We say, 'Yes, you do.'' Stone said."

Source: LA Times

Claim: Their dolphin don’t sunburn.
Reality: All dolphins have the ability to sunburn. Non-captive dolphins don’t spend as much time at the surface in the wild and don’t have to worry about not having sun coverage.
Why do captive dolphins and whales need sunscreen?

Claim: They contribute to research that is vital to dolphins in the wild.
Reality: Dolphin Quest mainly partakes in husbandry research. This is research on how to more successfully raise and keep dolphins in a captive environment. Aside from studies relating to better understanding of dolphin anatomy, most research done on captive dolphins is difficult to apply to the wild because their very behavior is altered in captivity, making a lot of their research invalid when applied to wild dolphins. 

Claim: Their captive dolphin's average lifespan is longer than they've been in business.


-Full Transcripts From The Department Of Agriculture Meeting

-NOAA Wild Capture Permit

Claim: Their occasional firework shows don't stress or alarm the dolphins.

Reality: We've been contacted by multiple people who have been near the dolphin lagoons during the fireworks show and began filming the dolphins when they began to exhibit what appeared to be distress. Dolphin Quest staff had security remove them from the property without explanation. This was also reported to Department Of Land And Natural Resources (the department responsible for issuing the firework permits).

Claim: Their accreditations are proof of their excellent animal care.

Reality: Dolphin Quest, like many Swim With Dolphin Programs in the USA, points to their accreditations when questioned about the quality of their animal care.

Unfortunately, they leave out that many of the people creating the standards of these accrediting businesses are in the captive cetacean trade themselves, including Dolphin Quest's founders.
American Humane Association:

American Humane Association's requirements have been described as simply being the standard practices of the industry NOT the standard practices the public are likely to expect from an animal welfare label. In addition, facilities can be certified without even meeting all of these requirements.

There have been multiple complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission against American Humane Association, claiming their seal of approval and marketing materials are misleading, and their animal care standards are “inconsistent with the public’s perception of what is ‘humane."

If you're wondering why this association's name sounds so familiar you may have heard of the alleged animal cruelty scandal on the set of A Dog's Purpose, as American Humane was the business responsible for the animals' safety. The incident has since been blamed on "misleading footage" by a third party investigator from the association. You can read other articles about American Humane Association below:

Alliance Of Marine Mammals Parks And Aquariums (AMMPA):
Both of Dolphin Quest's founders, Jay Sweeney and Rae Stone, are former presidents of the AMMPA. This means they've had a hand in creating the standards they need to pass, which is a bit like passing a test you wrote the questions and answers to. What's worse is the association does not enforce regulations when centers don't uphold to these standards. For example, AMMPA claims that "not one animal in an Alliance member facility or interactive program is from Japan. Alliance policy strictly prohibits any zoological park and aquarium from joining the organization if the facility acquires animals from the Japanese drive fisheries," yet Kina, a false killer whale from an old drive fishery on Iki Island, is being held at Sea Life Park, an AMMPA accredited facility.
International Marine Animal Trainer's Association (IMATA):

IMATA still allows trainers to participate in the Japanese drive fisheries, like the one in Taiji featured in the documentary, The Cove.

In Japanese drive fisheries, wild dolphins are herded into an enclosed area by drive fishermen. The “prettiest” dolphins are sold off to trainers and marine parks all over the world. The rest are usually killed as “pest control” because the fishermen believe they are responsible for the decline of fish. The dolphin meat, dangerously toxic with high methylmercury levels, is then mislabeled as expensive whale meat and sold in Japanese markets.

By allowing employees to participate in this internationally condemned practice, their animal care standards are in no doubt incredibly questionable and certainly not high enough to give their accreditation much weight.

More info and articles on these associations: