Press Release

SWIMS Act Introduced in Congress to Phase Out Whale Captivity

The International Marine Mammal Project Endorses the SWIMS Act

Mark J. Palmer: (707) 553-1720,
David Phillips: (510) 859-9145,

Berkeley, CA: The International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) of Earth Island Institute announced strong support for the SWIMS Act (Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings Act), introduced today by co-authors Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), Rep. Suzan DelBene, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“Holding orcas, belugas, pilot whales, and false killer whales in captivity is inhumane. These intelligent and amazing animals belong in the ocean – not in small concrete tanks,” stated David Phillips, Director of the International Marine Mammal Project at Earth Island Institute.

Scientists have determined that these species in captivity live lives of boredom and stress, with compromised health and shortened lives.

The SWIMS Act would phase out captivity of these species in the US by:

  • Amending the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to prohibit all capture, importation, or exportation of these whales for the purpose of public display;
  • Amending the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit all breeding of these whales for futurepublic display. Whales currently confined in facilities would then be the last ones of these species in captivity.
  • Allowing exemptions for marine mammals being transported to a seaside sanctuary setting or released to the wild.

“We urge the Congress to quickly take up and pass the SWIMS Act and also implement critical steps toward ending all captivity of whales in the US,” stated David Phillips. He added: “All whales and dolphins currently held in captivity for display should be retired from performances and released into protected seaside sanctuaries, where they could live healthier lives and in some cases be able to be released back to the wild.”

Many nations have passed laws phasing out the keeping of all cetaceans in captivity, including Canada, France, Croatia, and India. In 2023, Russia banned the captures of cetaceans in Russian waters, closing down trade in wild orcas and beluga whales caught in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk. Last month, South Korea implemented regulations banning all zoos and aquariums from acquiring whales and dolphins for display. Some nations, like the United Kingdom, have strict rules for keeping cetaceans in captivity – so strict that there are no dolphinariums in the UK.

“There is ample proof of how damaging it is to hold these amazing beings in concrete tanks, just to perform tricks for entertainment and corporate profit,” stated David Phillips. He added, “Passage of the SWIMS Act would help end this cruelty.”

He added, “This important law would be a worthy tribute to the original Senate lead, the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.”

About the International Marine Mammal Project

For more than 40 years, Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) has been a leader in protecting whales, dolphins, and their ocean environment from dangers such as drift and gill nets, cetacean captivity, commercial whaling, and offshore drilling. IMMP gained international recognition for pioneering the Dolphin Safe tuna program and for its efforts to end the trade and captivity of dolphins and whales. IMMP also advocates to end commercial whaling at the International Whaling Commission with a targeted focus on Japan, Iceland, and Norway. For more information, please visit