Eight aquariums in South Korea under scrutiny after dolphin death
The dead dolphin was imported from Japan and died five days after
By Kim Se-jeong
In the wake of the death of a bottlenose dolphin at an Ulsan aquarium earlier this month in South Korea, a group of experts started a 10-day inspection, of eight aquariums, Wednesday.
According to Rep. Lee Jeong-mi of the Justice Party who spearheaded the inspections, experts from animal rights groups, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries will look into the water conditions where the aquatic mammals live, noise levels, quality of animal feed and health checkup systems.
One day earlier, Rep. Lee proposed a further revision to the wildlife protection and management law banning imports and exports of dolphins for entertainment.
The inspection came more than one week after a bottlenose dolphin at the aquarium in Ulsan died suddenly on Feb. 14. The dolphin had been imported from Japan only five days earlier.
Currently, 41 dolphins are living in aquariums on Geoje Island, in Seoul and Ulsan, and on Jeju Island and they are mostly from Japan.
“In light of her death, we realised Korea needs tighter rules governing their living conditions,” Rep. Lee said in a statement. “The ultimate goal will be to ban their imports to Korea and the aquarium business, which has already been seen in countries such as Chile, Costa Rica, Hungary, India and the United States.”
Bottlenose dolphins are listed as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but their international trade is allowed as it isn’t a serious threat to the species’ population. In Korea, their import is possible with permission from the environment ministry.
Animal rights activists’ criticisms of the government began before the dolphin arrived, citing the inhumanity of confining a wild species for business. After the dolphin’s death, the point of criticism was its failure to monitor the aquarium operator, the Jangsaengpo Special Whale Culture Zone, which was tasked to care for the dolphin. An autopsy is underway to find the cause of death.
Activists filed a complaint against Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon for failing to keep the dolphin alive.
It will be a while until the proposed legislative revision is discussed at the National Assembly. “It can be sometime in June at the earliest,” Rep. Lee’s aide surnamed Park said. “But it is more likely to be in September when the National Assembly opens for an official session.”