Marine mammal park

Marine mammal park
Marineland of Florida, USA — dolphin show, 1964.
An orca performs as "Shamu" at SeaWorld San Diego

A marine mammal park (sometimes oceanarium) is a commercial theme park or aquarium where marine mammals such as dolphins, beluga whales and sea lions are kept within water tanks and displayed to the public in special shows. A marine mammal park is more elaborate than a dolphinarium, because it also features other marine mammals and offers additional entertainment attractions. It is thus seen as a combination of a public aquarium and an amusement park. Marine mammal parks are different from marine parks, which include natural reserves and marine wildlife sanctuaries such as coral reefs, particularly in Australia.



Sea Lion Park opened in 1895 at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York City with an aquatic show featuring 40 sea lions. It closed in 1903.

The second marine mammal park, then called an oceanarium, was established in St. Augustine, Florida in 1938. It was initially a large water tank used to exhibit marine mammals for filming underwater movies, and only became later a public attraction. Today Marineland of Florida claims to be "the world’s first oceanarium".

In November 1961, Marineland of the Pacific on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, near Los Angeles in California was the first park to display an orca in captivity, although the orca died after two days.[1] The Vancouver Aquarium was responsible for the first orca ever held alive in captivity, Moby Doll, for 3 months in 1964.[2]

Between the 1970s and the 1990s, technical advances and the public's increasing interest in aquatic environments prompted a shift to large marine mammal parks with cetaceans (mostly orcas and other species of dolphin) as attractions. Within this time Sea World USA evolved as the most prominent chain of marine mammal parks, with operations in Orlando, Florida, San Diego, California, San Antonio, Texas, and Aurora, Ohio (which has since closed down).

List of Parks

See also the List of dolphinariums for parks which keep only dolphins.


Name Location External Link
Ocean Park Hong Kong Wong Chuk Hang (Hong Kong) Ocean Park Hong Kong


Pet Porpoise Pool Coffs Harbour
Sea World Gold Coast, Queensland (Australia) Sea World Australia
UnderWater World Mooloolaba, Queensland (Australia) UnderWater World Australia


Name Location External Link
Dolfinarium Harderwijk Harderwijk (Netherlands) Dolfinarium Harderwijk
Marineland (Antibes) Antibes (France) Marineland Antibes
Loro Parque Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife (Spain) Loro Parque

North America

Name Location External Link
Miami Seaquarium Miami, FL (USA) Miami Seaquarium - Miami, FL
Discovery Cove Orlando, FL (USA) Discovery Cove - Orlando, FL
Delphinus Dreams Cancún Cancun, Q.Roo (Mexico) Delphinus Dreams - Cancun
Delphinus Riviera Maya Riviera Maya, Q.Roo (Mexico) Delphinus - Riviera Maya
Delphinus Xcaret Riviera Maya, Q.Roo (Mexico) Delphinus - Xcaret
Delphinus Xel-Ha Riviera Maya, Q.Roo (Mexico) Dephinus - Xel-Ha
Delphinus Costa Maya Costa Maya, Q.Roo (Mexico) Delphinus - Costa Maya
Dolphin Discovery Isla Mujeres, Q. Roo (Mexico) Dolphin Discovery - Cancún, Isla Mujeres
Dolphin Discovery Cozumel, Q. Roo (Mexico) Dolphin Discovery - Cozumel
Dolphin Discovery Riviera Maya, Q. Roo (Mexico) Dolphin Discovery - Puerto Aventuras
Dolphin Research Center Marathon, FL (USA) Dolphin Research Center - Marathon, FL
SeaWorld San Diego, California (USA) SeaWorld USA
SeaWorld Orlando, Florida (USA) SeaWorld USA
SeaWorld San Antonio, Texas (USA) SeaWorld USA
Sea Life Park Hawaii Oahu, Hawaii (USA) Sea Life Park Hawaii
Sea Life Park Vallarta Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit (Mexico) Sea Life Park Vallarta
Marineland of Florida St. Augustine, Florida (USA) Marineland of Florida
Marineland (Ontario) Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada) Marineland of Niagara
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Vallejo, California (USA) Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Theater of the Sea Islamorada, Florida Keys, Florida (USA) Theater of the Sea

South America

Name Location External Link
Mundo Marino San Clemente del Tuyu (Argentina) Mundo Marino San Clemente del Tuyu

Criticism and animal welfare

Many animal welfare groups, such as the WSPA, consider keeping whales and dolphins in captivity a form of abuse. The main argument is that whales and dolphins do not have enough freedom of movement within their artificial environments. The existence of marine mammal parks is thus very controversially discussed.

Although sizable pools for whales and dolphins require an extraordinarily technical and financial expenditure and are usually nearly impossible to provide and maintain, many marine mammal parks endeavour to improve the conditions of captivity and attempt to engage in public education as well as scientific studies. For that purpose many marine mammal parks joined together in the "Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums", an international association dedicated to high standard of care of marine mammals. It was founded in 1987 and established offices near Washington, DC, in 1992.

In 2010, the practice of keeping animals in captivity as trained show performers was heavily criticized when a trainer was killed by an Orca Whale at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida.[3]


  • Lou Jacobs, Wonders of an oceanarium: The story of marine life in captivity. Golden Gate Junior Books, 1965.
  • Joanne F. Oppenheim, Oceanarium. Bantam Books, 1994. ISBN 0-553-09520-X

See also


  1. ^ Eye to Eye with Orky and Corky.
  2. ^ The Capture of Orcas.
  3. ^

External links

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