Ssssh! Don’t tell the visitors!

Just some of the false claims made by Sea Life…

The Claim: “We never get any animal – from the shrimps to the sharks – never get any animal from the sea because we find it cruel. It’s part of our company policy not to” [Sea Life staff member]

The Truth: Sea Life centres take animals from the wild to stock their tanks but senior management refuse to reveal how many of the thousands of fish and other animals have been taken from the sea.



In Shanghai SEA LIFE, whales perform circus style tricks

The Claim: “Sea Life believes it is wrong to keep whales and dolphins in captivity. No matter how spacious, no captive facility can ever provide such far-ranging, highly social and highly intelligent animals with the stimulation they need for a good quality of life”. [Sea Life website]

The Truth: Sea Life’s parent company has, since 2006, purchased at least three attractions which housed captive cetaceans. The most recent purchase in 2012 was Chang Feng Ocean World in Shanghai which has been rebranded as a Sea Life centre. Beluga whales were still “performing” in the Shanghai centre in March 2014. Merlin is part-owned by the same company which bought the notorious Sea World marine parks in the US in 2009.


Spider Crab Photo -  Dallas Krentzel (CC Licence) httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby4.0

Rescue claims are dubious

The Claim: Giant crabs and 20 turtles were “rescued” by Sea Life

The Truth: Sea Life bought crabs directly from fisherman for thousands of pounds at a time and 20 turtles were acquired from a turtle farm in the Cayman Islands in 2006. The turtles were acquired despite opposition from conservation organisations which said the import of the animals breached international rules on trade in endangered species.


The Claim: “Many of our creatures are on the endangered list” [Sea Life Website]

The Truth: Only 2.5% of the exhibits observed housed animals belonging to endangered species. The vast majority of species housed in Sea Life aquariums have not been assessed for conservation purposes.


The Claim: “Naturally, we choose only those species that flourish in aquarium surroundings” [Sea Life website]

The Truth: Various incidences of captivity-related stress behaviours were recognised during the study as well as recurring health issues which, staff admitted, had resulted in high numbers of deaths.


Euthanasia policy allows culling of surplus animals

The Claim: “Sea Life never kills a healthy animal” [Sea Life staff member, Hunstanton] and “We never put anything to sleep because we have got too many of them or because they are a problem” [Sea Life staff member, Great Yarmouth]

The Truth: Killing healthy animals because they are “surplus to requirements” or “too large to house” is permitted in Sea Life aquariums but must be discussed by the company’s ethics committee. No information has been made available as to how many animals are killed for these reasons.


Sea horse

Animals bred by SEA LIFE don’t return to the sea

The Claim: “Breeding programmes help us to reinstate struggling species to environments they help to maintain” [Sea Life website]

The Truth: Evidence of release of species bred in Sea Life centres is notably absent, with the exception of lobsters (who, in any case, are released to “sustainable fisheries”). Sea Life confirms in published information that breeding programmes serve the purpose of ensuring that Sea Life aquariums remain stocked to avoid having to take animals from the wild.

[Read next section: Taken from the Wild]