Home and Away star turned Hollywood siren Isabel Lucas has appeared in an Australia-first television ad calling for an end to dolphin captivity.
The ad, which will run for three weeks through the holiday period, launched this week across the north coast of NSW and primarily targets Coffs Harbour’s Dolphin Marine Magic - one of two venues along side Sea World on the Gold Coast which still holds captive dolphins.
The park which employs round 50 people is a key feature of the Coffs Harbour tourism market but has been the centre of ongoing controversy and a number of petitions condemning the conditions in which its exhibits, which also includes penguins and seals, are kept.
In late 2015 a two-year-old dolphin, Ji-Ling, died at the park of an ulcer after eating foliage and a small metal object - which both the NSW Department of Primary Industries and DMM have refused to identify - found in his pool.
Despite the death, DPI reissued DMM’s licence last year allowing it to continue to operate.
“I urge all Australians to take a stand against this cruel practice, and choose to see dolphins in the wild rather than marine parks,” Isabel said in a statement.
“It’s heartbreaking to know dolphins are confined in chlorinated pools in Australia.
“Studies show captive dolphins suffer stress, anxiety and die young.”
The ad was launched by non-profit Australia for Dolphins.
In May 2016, the Labor party joined with the Greens and Animal Justice Partyto support a bill - spruiked by former Labor premier Bob Carr - calling for an end to dolphin captivity in NSW which is currently going through the drafting process.
Lucas - who starred in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and The Water Diviner also featured in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove - which revealed the reality of Japan’s Taiji dolphin hunt.
DMM manager Paige Sinclair told The Australian that while she applauded Isabel Lucas’s humanitarian work and agreed with her stance against the annual culling of dolphins in Taiji, “the information supplied to her by Australians For Dolphins is inaccurate regarding dolphins in human care in Australia”.
“The average life span of a dolphin in Australia in captivity exceeds that of wild dolphins and we have no evidence to indicate that our animals suffer from stress or anxiety. AFD have never produced any evidence to support these claims,” she said.
“It is true that we lost a young dolphin in 2015. It was a sad event for everyone and was the consequence of the animal eating leaf matter that had blown into the pool after a huge storm.
“The same thing can and does happen in wild dolphins.
“Captive dolphins in Australia are subject to the most stringent animal welfare controls of any captive animal and enjoy a largely satisfying life.”
English comedian and movie star Ricky Gervais has also previously condemned the park, while RSPCA Australia has stated keeping dolphins in captivity “could not be justified”.
AFD ceo Sarah Lucas, no relation of Isabel, said Australia’s marine parks did not release information about dolphin deaths to the public.
“What we do know, based on a study of thousands of captive dolphins in the US, is that 83 per cent of captive dolphins studied don’t make it to the age of 20, whereas wild dolphins have a life expectancy of 40-50 years,” she told The Australian.
“Many captive dolphins have died young in Australia, including Dolphin Marine Magic’s one-year-old calf, who swallowed metal and litter in his inadequately cleaned pool.”