France is one of fifteen EU Member States keeping cetaceans in captivity - both bottlenose dolphins and orca. The three dolphinaria in France reportedly have a total of 29 bottlenose dolphins and 5 orcas in captivity.
The largest of the three French dolphinaria is Marineland Antibes, with 14 bottlenose dolphins currently, 5 of which are wild-caught dolphins imported in the 1980’s. The other remaining 9 dolphins are reportedly captive bred at the park. The most recent births at the park were on May, 7th and June, 8th of this year. On the other hand, there have been a reported 23 bottlenose dolphin deaths at Marineland Antibes since its opening in 1970, 16 out of the 23 deaths were wild-caught dolphins. Marineland Antibes also currently holds five captive orcas, of which one female was wild-caught in 1982 and the most recent calf was born on March 16th of this year. There have been 10 orca deaths at the park, including four orcas that were wild-caught in Iceland in 1989. Three of the wild-caught orcas died between 1995 and 2004, and the fourth, Sharkane, died in 2009 of a bacterial infection. A further four were calves stillborn to the female orca, Freya. Marineland Antibes not only has dolphins and orcas preforming in shows, but also has a dolphin encounter where the public can touch and learn to train a dolphin.
Parc Astérix is the second dolphinaria located in the tourist area of Paris. Parc Astérix reportedly holds 9 bottlenose dolphins: 3 of which are wild-caught, the other 6 born in captivity. There have been 9 bottlenose dolphin deaths at Parc Astérix, 5 were wild-caught and 2 of those where reportedly pregnant at the time of death. The other 4 deaths were captive bred individuals, one of which was a young calf. The third dolphinaria in France is the Planète Sauvage situated near Port Saint Père, it currently holds 5 captive-bred bottlenose dolphin. These dolphins are involved in training 6 days a week and shows 7 days a week during the summer. Planète Sauvage also claims to be involved in scientific research associated with dolphin communication.
Many alternatives exist in France to seeing these animals in captivity. Along the French Atlantic coastline, Brittany and Normandy offer the best chances to see bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoise. Along the Mediterranean coast of Southern France, bottlenose and striped dolphins can be seen close to shore, while further out fin, sperm and long-finned pilot whales and even Risso’s and short beaked common dolphins can be seen.
France is a Party to ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area) a cooperative inter-governmental agreement for the conservation of marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean and Black seas. French dolphinaria are included in the national zoo law implementing the EU Zoos Directive but there are no specific standards for the keeping of these cetaceans in captivity.
France is also Party to ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas) whose aim it is to maintain and achieve a favourable conservation status for small cetaceans throughout the agreement area.
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