South Korea Outlaws Captive Whales and Dolphins

Aquariums in Korea are now banned from buying new cetaceans for display.

  • South Korean aquariums banned from acquiring new whales or dolphins.
  • Activists now calling for the release of existing cetaceans in captivity.
  • Whales and dolphins are known collectively as cetaceans.
  • Rules put in place by Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

According to The Korea Times, effective today, the Republic of Korea has banned public aquariums in the East Asian country from purchasing new whales and dolphins.

Animal rights activists in South Korea are now calling for the release of existing whales and dolphins—known collectively as cetaceans—currently kept in captivity in the nation’s public aquariums.

Local animal rights group holding a protest regarding the failure to release a captive beluga whale.

The news comes as South Korea revises legislation surrounding the management of its public aquariums and zoos. New rules specifically banning zoos and aquariums from buying cetaceans for display come into effect today, Thursday, the 14th of December, 2023.

Changes to the law, overseen by South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, also forbid the country’s zoos and aquariums from allowing visitors to feed or touch existing marine mammals in their care.

Furthermore, any planned new public aquariums now need to seek state approval before being allowed to open. Existing aquariums must subsequently meet the same legislative requirements within five years. Rules for new and existing aquariums focus particularly on schedules for conducting routine medical examinations of the animals in their care.

South Korean public aquariums and zoos are currently home to 21 captive cetaceans – five beluga whales and 16 dolphins.

Captive Whales and Dolphins in the UK

In the UK, no laws exist banning captive whales or dolphins in aquariums. However, the 1991 Born Free campaign Into the Blue saw the closure of the nation’s last ‘dolphinaria’ along with the rescue and release of its remaining inhabitants back into the wild.

Thankfully, zoos and aquariums in the UK have remained captive cetacean-free ever since.