OPINION: The Ethics of Aquariums
Aquariums are a fun school trip, excursion, or date. Seeing all the fish and animals that are normally in the ocean unseen is remarkable and an incredible experience, but morals and ethics come into play when you think about the fish and animals themselves. So, are aquariums ethically sound? The answer is, it depends.
The infamous case of Sea World is always brought up when talking about the ethics of keeping sea animals in captivity, especially orcas. The spaces and tanks where these orcas were held were too small, and the orca shows put on by the trainers were incredibly inhumane. Not only did orcas get hurt and pass prematurely, but so did people. It was overall a terrible idea and experience as a whole and to this day remains an essential example of what not to do while holding animals captive. On the other hand, we have aquariums such as the local Georgia and South Carolina Aquarium. It is important to study these animals so we can further understand our oceans, and many of the animals found in these aquariums are bred in captivity and could never be set in the wild. However, putting these animals in a tank for the rest of their lives is a little sad and disheartening. I will give credit to the Georgia Aquarium as they routinely change the walls of their tanks to make sure the natural path the animals follow is diverse and will not cause a maddening effect on the animals. In the Charleston Aquarium, they have a display of just sea turtles they heal and release back into the ocean which is the right thing to do and also provides a learning experience for scientists and younger generations. But the main problem in every aquarium is the breeding of animals in captivity and separating the animals from each other. This continuation of breeding and separation is terrible and has an effect on the animals themselves, but they keep doing it to have more displays. There is also the issue of dolphin and other animal shows. People are trained, and aquariums allow the exploitation of these animals for the entertainment of a crowd to earn money. These animals naturally would be in the ocean doing their own thing, and now they are forced to memorize tricks and routines and to perform these shows daily. These shows also make you question, what would happen to these animals if they did not do the right trick or refused to perform?
All in all, Aquariums with a rehabilitation and education emphasis are ethically sound and do not cause harm to the animals or continue captive breeding, but aquariums with the one purpose of having a shiny new display to bring in more customers are the problem and should be stopped in a way healthiest for the animals already in captivity. I also want to assure those who have gone to and enjoy aquariums or have been to a dolphin show that that is okay! However, it is now time to make sure any aquarium or even zoo you visit treated animals with care and research to see if what they are doing is ethically sound. In the meantime, I would definitely encourage any sea animal lovers to go to a sea turtle rescue or rehabilitation center if you want to see the little buddies up close!