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Tampere dolphinarium future in doubt, jobs to be cut

Särkänniemi amusement park plans to lay off staff at its controversial dolphinarium, which faces an uncertain future.

Mielenosoitus Särkänniemen delfinaariolla
Image: Marko Melto / Yle

Tampere's Särkänniemi amusement park is reconsidering the business operations of its dolphinarium and beginning redundancy talks with the facility's staff.

Visitor numbers have dropped at the marine mammal centre, whose business has long been running at a loss.

Attendance at the dolphinarium declined further this rainy summer – even though the overall number of visitors to Särkänniemi rose by about 20 percent from last year.

"Attitude climate has changed"

"Although our customers at the dolphinarium have been very satisfied, the fact is that over the decades the attitude climate regarding dolphinarium operations has changed. That must also be taken into account," says Särkänniemi Managing Director Miikka Seppälä.

Särkänniemi is owned by the south-central city of Tampere, where its 124-metre Näsinneula observation tower is a local landmark.

Established 40 years ago, the dolphinarium now houses four bottlenose dolphins who perform shows for up to 1,000 spectators at a time. It has been the target of demonstrations and boycott calls from animal rights groups in recent years.

Seppälä declined to speculate as to whether the redundancy talks meant that the dolphinarium might be shut down.

"We’re now mapping out various alternatives, as we have certainly been doing for quite a while. Now we have in a way advanced to the concrete level, in that we’re considering different alternatives in regard to the business, the staff and the animals. But I can’t predict the final result in any way yet.”

The layoff negotiations will involve up to nine employees.

No figures yet - one day left in season

Seppälä refused to say by how much the dolphinarium’s visitor numbers have dropped or how big its losses have been.

"These are internal matters and I’m not going to open them up publically. The cost structure has been unsustainable for a long time, and that’s why we’re looking for solutions,” he told Yle.

“I’m not going to announce the attendance figures more precisely at this point, because we still have one day left in the summer season, which is this Saturday,” he added.

Dolphinarium staff also declined to comment to Yle about the redundancies announcement.

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