Open letter to Billabong and Surfing NSW

Apr 28, 2015 by afdadmin
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TO: Mr Ian Pollard, Chairman of Billabong and Mr Mark Windon, CEO of Surfing NSW,

Billabong and Surfing NSW: stop supporting a law-breaking aquarium

Australia for Dolphins is incredibly disappointed that Surfing NSW and Billabong offered a trip to the controversial ‘Dolphin Marine Magic’, as a major prize of the Billabong Oz Grom Cup.

Not only does this park fail to meet all NSW animal welfare standards, it is well established amongst leading cetacean scientists that dolphins in captive environments do not fare well.

Offering the trip as a prize to young surfers sends the wrong message to Aussie youth about marine conservation.

As organisations that model your brands around deep appreciation of marine life, your affiliation with Dolphin Marine Magic is highly inappropriate.

Australia for Dolphins is requesting that you pledge not to offer prizes of this nature in the future.

Lack of corporate social responsibility

Dolphin Marine Magic is currently under investigation by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries for potential breaches of animal welfare legislation.

The marine park has also been the subject of ongoing controversy and negative public criticism.

The ABC (which aired a show called Blue Zoo set at DMM) has been heavily criticised in the national press for its decision to promote the park to a young audience. And the Sydney Swans recently cancelled a dolphin swim and visit to DMM after immense public pressure, as reported in The Australian.

A number of corporate groups such as Lion Nathan, Schweppes and Macro Meats have also deliberately distanced themselves from the animal entertainment industry recently – recognising the potential for this affiliation to damage their business’s reputation.

Ethical Concerns

Documentaries such as Blackfish have added to growing public sentiment that cetaceans cannot be kept in captivity humanely.

Dolphins can travel more than one hundred kilometres a day in the wild and have complex social structures. In captivity, these needs cannot be met due to forced interaction with people, as well as limited space to move.

For more information, please find a leading expert statement from Dr Jane Goodall, outlining just some of the reasons why dolphins should not be kept in captivity.

As Australia’s largest and longest running state body for the sport of surfing, we trust that Surfing NSW is concerned about promoting the good treatment of animals to its young members. Many of the organisation’s supporters have likely surfed with dolphins in the wild. As such, it seems incongruous for Billabong and Surfing NSW to be promoting a company such as Dolphin Marine Magic to its animal welfare conscious customers.

Overview of legal breaches

Two of DMM’s animal enclosures (the secondary dolphin pool, and the seal pool) do not meet standards as laid out in law. Keeping migratory mammals in enclosures that fall well below legislated animal welfare minimums poses serious risks to their wellbeing.

AFD has particular concern for the wellbeing of Bucky – Dolphin Marine Magic’s “star” performer who is featured heavily in performances and interactive programs. Bucky is elderly (45 years old – at the end of his life expectancy) and in remission from cancer. In spite of this, he still performs circus-style shows.

The dolphins at DMM also have intensive interaction with the public, in violation of the NSW Dolphin Standards. This involves giving members of the public rides and kisses, even though these activities are clearly prohibited under the standards.

Our request

As set out above, Dolphin Marine Magic does not meet minimum legislated standards for the care of animals. For this reason, we are concerned that Surfing NSW and Billabong are promoting this facility to a young audience. We sincerely hope Surfing NSW and Billabong will seriously reconsider its affiliation with this law-breaking marine park.

Surfing is one of the few sports where interactions with wild dolphins occur spontaneously and in a natural environment. Promoting a captive dolphin establishment that is breaking the law is the antithesis of what the sport stands for.

We call on you to pledge not to offer prizes of this nature in the future.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

JS Signature

Jordan Sosnowski

Advocacy Director, Australia for Dolphins