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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2611


Senator GEORGES(3.13) —I present the report of the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare relating to dolphins and whales in captivity.

Ordered that the report be printed.


Senator GEORGES —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

Because of the strictures of time, I seek leave to incorporate my speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

The report entitled `Dolphins and Whales in Captivity' is the second of a series of particular aspects of the Committee's inquiry into the question of animal welfare in Australia. The first report of the Committee on `Export of Live Sheep in Australia' was presented on 13 August this year.

All the public evidence for this report was taken by former members, Senators Jack Evans, Jean Hearn and Doug Scott before their retirement from the Senate on 30 June 1985. These former members assisted the present Committee in the preparation of this report. I wish to pay tribute to these three senators for their dedication and spirit of co-operation in this and other areas of investigation by the Committee and for their assistance to the new Committee in finalising this report.

Throughout the report, the Committee has used the words `cetacean' in the singular and `cetacea' in the plural to refer to dolphins and whales.

The Committee has used the term `oceanaria' in the report to describe establishments where cetacea and other marine animals are kept. Where the Committee wanted to refer specifically to an establishment or part of an establishment where only cetacea are kept, it has used the term `dolphinarium' or `captive cetacean facility' to avoid any ambiguity.

After preliminary hearings in mid 1984, the Committee decided to concentrate initially on two areas of animal welfare-the export of live sheep from Australia and kangaroo welfare and management.

Following representations made to the Committee by animal welfare organisations about the welfare of dolphins and whales in capitivity and the proposed establishment of an oceanarium at Keysborough, Victoria, the Committee held a hearing on cetacea in captivity in July 1984. In October 1984, the Minister for Home Affairs and the environment refused the application for a permit to capture cetacea in Commonwealth waters for the proposed oceanarium in Victoria, but added that he might reconsider the matter in the light of any recommendations on captive cetacea from this Committee. The Victorian Government also decided to defer its decision on the proposed oceanarium until the Committee had reported its findings. The Committee decided, in the circumstances, to give priority to the examination of cetacea in capitivity.

Representatives from government departments, marine mammal specialists and scientists gave evidence and made submissions together with other interested individuals and concerned groups both for and against keeping cetacea in captivity. This issue was marked by a heated and often acrimonious international debate over the findings of research on captive cetacea. This made the Committee's task more difficult.

Although the examination of this issue was given priority because of proposal to establish a dolphinarium in Victoria, the Committee has concentrated on the general issues and principles of cetacea in captivity. The recommendations are general and not specific to the Victorian proposal.

I shall now comment briefly on the main conclusions and recommendations contained in the report.

The Committee concludes that while oceanaria had made a contribution to raising awareness and advancing knowledge about cetacea and had performed a role in conservation and preservation of the species, some evidence indicated that cetecea in captivity suffered stress, behavioural abnormalities, high mortalities, decreased longevity and breeding problems. It acknowledged that in Australia the record for cetacean mortalities was better than for overseas but concluded nevertheless `that cetacea generally have paid a high price for the dubious advantages of captivity'.

The Committee found that, with one exception, Australian oceanaria had not made a substantial contribution to cetacean conservation and preservation and that four oceanaria made little or no active contribution to education or research about cetacea. The Committee examined evidence relating to the probable high intelligence and complex social behaviour of cetacea and concludes that while the scientific community has not yet reached a full understanding of the nature of the animal, in view of the possibility that cetacea have a high level of intelligence, they should be given the benefit in decisions on their captivity.

The Committee concludes that in Australia the benefits of oceanaria for humans and cetacea were no longer sufficient to justify the adverse effects of captivity and recommends that no further facilities for keeping captive cetacea be permitted to be established in Australia and that no further permits be issued for the capture of cetacea in Commonwealth or State waters. It also recommends that the importation of cetacea from overseas be banned.

The Committee recommends that existing oceanaria be allowed to continue keeping cetacea for the time being but that keeping of cetacea should ultimately be phased out unless further research justified their existence.

The Committee found that there were a number of problems inherent in the present system for licensing and regulating oceanaria in Australia with significant differences in each State's provision for cetacean protection. It recommends that national standards for the maintenance and care of captive cetacea, for use by authorities responsible for captive cetacea in each State, be drawn up by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service in consultation with State Government authorities, members of the captive cetacean industry and other people with knowledge of cetacean welfare. These should include standards for assessments of financial viability, natural display and educational and research components of captive cetacean display as well as covering all aspects of maintenance, handling and care of captive cetacea.

The Committee recognises that some existing oceanaria would not conform to the recommended standards for keeping cetacea. It holds the view that, in the interests of cetacean welfare, existing facilities should conform to more stringent standards. It recommends that all facilities holding cetacea in Australia be assessed by the appropriate state authority and `where it is found that the captive cetacean facility is unable to comply with these standards, a specified time be allocated for improvements and if, after this period, the facility is still unable to comply it should be closed down'.

Other recommendations deal with the setting up of a national advisory body on matters relating to cetacea and with the rehabilitation of stranded cetacea by oceanaria.

In the first half of next year the Committee will present to the senate a report on kangaroo welfare and management. The Committee has also begun examining animal husbandry, both intensive and extensive, and animal experimentation.

Finally, I thank all the people who contributed to this inquiry. In particular, I thank the staff of the Committee: Paul Barsdell, the Committee Secretary; Glenys Roper, the Research Officer involved in this area of the inquiry; and Louise Hildyard and Leonie Peake and other support staff.


Senator GEORGES —I merely wish to refer to two sections of that incorporated speech in recognition of the work done by previous members of the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare and the staff. All the public evidence for this report was taken by former members-Senators Jack Evans, Jean Hearn and Doug Scott-before their retirement from the Senate on 30 June 1985. These former members assisted the present Committee in the preparation of this report. I wish to pay tribute to these three former senators for their dedication and spirit of co-operation in this area and other areas of investigation by the Committee and for their assistance to the new Committee in finalising this report.

I also thank all the people who contributed to this inquiry. In particular, I thank the staff of the Committee-Paul Barsdell, the Committee Secretary; Glenys Roper, the Research Officer involved in this area of the inquiry; and Louise Hildyard and Leonie Peake-and other members of the support staff.