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Environment Minister calls for Tampere dolphin attraction to close

Ville Niinistö has added his voice to the campaign to shut down the dolphinarium in the Särkänniemi theme park, saying he finds the idea of keeping dolphins in captivity “problematic”. However the leader of the Green Party insisted that the decision on whether to close the enclosure should be a matter for local politicians.

Delfiinejä Särkänniemen delfinaariossa Tampereella. Kuva on otettu vuonna 2010.
Dolphins in Tampere's Särkänniemi enclosure, pictured in 2010 Image: Mika Kanerva / Yle

Environment Minister Ville Niinistö has weighed into the debate over whether the dolphin enclosure in Tampere’s Särkänniemi theme park should be closed down, saying he finds the idea of keeping dolphins in captivity “problematic”.

However he added that the future of the attraction, which has come under criticism from local politicians and international animal-rights campaigners, should be a decision for the municipality rather than central government.

”Nowadays we are increasingly aware that animals should be allowed to engage in the behaviour that’s typical for their species. Marine mammals such as dolphins are incredibly intelligent animals who in the wild live in large, open areas, which they need for their wellbeing,” the Green Party leader said.

International campaign

The dolphinarium at Tampere’s Särkänniemi amusement park has been the subject of heated debate in recent weeks.

In May some Tampere city councillors tabled a proposal to shut the attraction. And earlier this month the Finnish animal rights group Justice for Animals stepped up their campaign against the facility by enlisting former dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry from the US to speak out against the Särkänniemi dolphinarium.

O’Barry is also campaigning to close Sweden’s only dolphinarium, which houses ten of the wild marine mammals at the Kolmården Wildlife Park outside Stockholm.

Speaking on Sunday, Niinistö claimed that many overseas dolphin enclosures have decided to shut down.

However, the Environment Minister said he believes the decision of whether or not to close Särkänniemi’s dolphinarium is a matter for local politicians to decide. He said he does not know of any specific legislation which would sway the issue either way.

”The ethical responsibility, however, lies with all of us,” Niinistö said. “We have to think about what’s morally right for these animals and their right to live in a way that suits them,” he added.

”In spite of extensive efforts to make conditions for the dolphins as humane as possible, keeping them in captivity is fundamentally problematic in this day and age. We no longer keep wild animals in circuses, and this is the next step,” Niinistö said.

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