AFD's work to free dolphins from captivity has been greatly supported by Voiceless, the animal protection institute. In 2016, AFD received a Voiceless grant to run a major advertising campaign in NSW. In 2017, AFD was the proud recipient of both the Voiceless People's Choice Award, which is decided by popular vote, and the Director's Award. This enabled the first television campaign against dolphin captivity in Australia. It also assisted AFD in launching legal action challenging whether dolphins are truly "happy and healthy" in captivity.
AFD is currently working on a feasibility study into establishing Australia’s first sea-pen sanctuary to retire the four remaining dolphins in captivity in NSW. A sea-pen sanctuary is a large enclosed area in a natural marine environment. In this new home, the dolphins can express natural behaviours, dive deeply and live with respect and autonomy. If successful, it will be one of the first sanctuaries of its kind in the world.
AFD has been working on the study in collaboration with Dolphin Marine Conservation Park, World Animal Protection and contractors from within Australia and around the world. In 2019, Dolphin Marine Conservation Park announced an end to its captive breeding program.
So far, AFD has engaged coastal engineering experts to analyse wave and climate data in the Coffs Harbour basin and learned it is feasible to build a dolphin sanctuary in the area. As well, a dolphin behavioural expert from the UK has conducted an animal welfare assessment and AFD has secured in principle support from major stakeholders in Coffs Harbour.
There are still a number of steps needed to ensure the Coffs’ harbour will be a safe home for the dolphins. Throughout 2019 and 2020, we hope to complete detailed acoustic and water quality tests. As well, we plan to engage architects to undertake detailed concept designs to map out potential locations in the Coffs Harbour basin.
The next important stage of the project will be to secure funding to build the sanctuary. If you’d like to know more , please feel free to email us and we can give you a detailed update about the project’s status: firstname.lastname@example.org.