The new rules notably also require “an increase of at least 150 percent of pools to allow the animals to live in less proximity from visitors and other animals”, the ministry said, as well as banning chlorine in treating the water. Direct contact between the animals and the public is also now forbidden, and water parks and aquariums have six months to conform to the new rules, and a three-year deadline for expanding their pools.
France has banned the breeding in captivity of dolphins and killer whales under tighter rules that campaigners hope will eventually herald the end of shows involving the animals.
Environment Minister Segolene Royal had on Wednesday signed a version of the legislation introducing “tight controls on the reproduction of dolphins”, her ministry said in a statement. But she has since decided the rules need to be “more radical”, her ministry told AFP on Saturday, particularly after learning that “some animals were drugged” in aquariums.
The new rules ban the captivity of all whales, dolphins and porpoises, except for orcas and bottlenose dolphins already held in authorised aquariums.
“In plain terms, this means the end of breeding, exchange and import programmes,” five conservation groups including One Voice and Sea Shepherd said in a joint statement.
“Without possible replenishment, this quite simply means the scheduled end of marine circuses on our territory.”
The news came as a shock to the association of French zoos, which complained that the government had not consulted them before passing the new regulations, which are being hailed as the beginning of the end of marine mammal shows in the country.
Jon Kershaw, head of the controversial marine park Marineland Antibes, called the ban a “bombshell.”
The park on the French Riviera was home to Freya, an orca who died in 2015 of an undetermined illness. After being caught as a baby off the coast of Iceland in the early 80s, Freya was made to breed over and over, giving birth to four stillborn calves and just one who survived.
Controversy also sparked when, after extensive flooding in the south of France, tanks at Marineland became filled with mud. Freya’s son, a 19-year-old orca named Valentin, died soon after this flooding, and just four months after his mom died. Some believe he died from complications related to the muddy tanks and possibly also from the pain of losing his mom.