top of page

Aquarium Industry- imprisonment of wild animals,- or a vital encounter with the world below surface?

How exactly should we consider the ethicality of Aquariums? This is a difficult subject, since there are many very strong opinions on this matter. - Is it unethical encapturement of wild animals, - some even threatened species, - or is it an important way to engage and display the beauty of the underwater world for people to find interest in protecting the oceans ? And the matter is anything but simple…

In this editorial we will be discussing pros and cons, as well as we will be taking different perspectives into consideration.

Photo by Andre Tan

When discussing the aquarium industry, some people might draw a direct parallel to dolphinariums.

This parallel, - often describing the unnatural circumstances in which these beings are being held - and how they suffer for humans pleasure, in stead of their own.

Like for instance, - the sharks species that need to swim constantly in order for them to breathe and naturally would be able to roam the oceans, hunting for prey, - only have a limited space in aquariums, - and mostly they will be fed, with dead fish.

Some animals in aquariums do also express stereotyped behavior, - which is a strong indicator that poor animal welfare is taking place.

You can read more about stereotyped behavior by following the link below.

But another way to look at this discussion is :

If dolphinariums had not existed, - perhaps we would not be drawn to dolphins ? If dolphinariums had not existed, - we would not have been “transformed” in our mindset, - ready to release and protect dolphins in the wild, since we had not grown to understand and love these ocean beings ?

This contrary perspective can be projected directly towards aquariums as well…

Photo by Matt Helbig
Aquariums may be an extremely important source to grow an understanding and fascination for the underwater world, - Baba Dioum once said : "In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.”

We need to understand the world below surface, to be able to love and protect it, - yet also an element of learning comes into the picture.

This is an important element to consider in the industry of aquariums.

Since humans, generally speaking, do not have a natural inherent understanding for the beings below surface, since they might appear from another world to us, - learning to understand and become fascinated by these beings becomes even more important. The importance of these ocean beings as well as the importance of the general existence of the oceans, - is something we need to be taught. And this element is important to consider when it comes to aquariums.

Many people, young as well as old, visiting aquariums, will look at a fish, the same way as they would look at an earthworm… With a distant fascination, but not as a reflection, not necessarily as a first encounter with another living creature.

Therefore, - facilitators at aquariums - facilitating an opportunity to experience an encounter with another being, can be an important necessity.

Photo by Oceans Daily

Creating an element or a “moment” of understanding or being drawn to the ocean, has the capability to create ocean ambassadors. This “moment” can facilitate a possibility for people to return home after the aquarium visit and make some new/different dissections - since they might have experienced something that shed a light on the ocean world, differently than what they might have experienced before.

And this, - the facilitating of an opening in peoples mentality, can be very important for the future of the oceans.

So aquariums might have the opportunity to use their voices, and facilitate an encounter between people and ocean beings, - that could create massive positive impact for the future of the oceans, - since knowledge can create change.

Photo by David Clode

Still the question about animal welfare is to be considered…

Some people will argue that animals in aquariums, as mentioned earlier, will not live a “natural life”, and are therefore mistreated.

And some aquariums do mistreat their animals, in other ways as well, - like for instance, too little space, wrong or too much/too little food, no treatment when sick, - or being “put down” far too late (suffering wise) etc..

An example of a guests experience of animal welfare at an aquarium can be found by following the link below.

Photo by Jordan Whitfield


Many aquariums are doing a massive job, with highly passionate employees, taking care of the animals and also dedicated to conservation, - like for instance rehabilitating wild sick animals, and working tirelessly on improving the animal welfare in the different aquariums. Follow the links below for more details :

Photo by Lance Anderson

Of cause, the lucrative element is also dominating the perception of the aquarium industry.

Aquariums earn money by displaying encaptured animals… - Can this be a good thing ?

When aquariums choose to use their knowledge and voice, by working for Ocean Conservation, by displaying animal ambassadors for their ocean species, - and combining this with a facilitation between humans and the ocean beings, - then aquariums might have the power to change many peoples perception about the ocean, - hopefully, resulting in more people becoming passionate about the oceans and therefore keen on contributing to a more sustainable future for the oceans.

Photo by Julien Lanoy

But if aquariums do not strive to create change, - they only contribute by increasing the demand for wild animals, corals etc.

In an article below, You will be able to read about how an estimated 90% of all saltwater aquarium fish imported to the U.S. are caught by the usage of devastating Cyanide.

These are, but few exampels of the discussion about aquariums ethicality.

It is a subject, perhaps without a clear result of right or wrong, since many factors are to be taken into consideration. These factors may also vary as much from the individual person, as to the individual aquarium and it´s choices.

By Blue Reporter, Naja Bertolt Jensen


bottom of page