In the 1970's there were at least 36 dolphinariums and traveling dolphin shows in the UK.
The first two purpose built aquaria for cetaceans where built in 1963 at Flamingo Park Zoo in Yorkshire and at Marineland built in the northern sea-side resort of Morecambe.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s dolphin shows became one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Britain with over 30 shows running with 300 dolphins in captivity. It was during this time that concern and awareness grew over the negative aspects of captivity, creating a large amount of media interest and public support toward ending the practice. In 1972 the United States also created the Marine Mammal Protection Act which made sourcing of wild dolphins for dolphinaria extremely difficult and expensive. Without a law to protect dolphins, the US had been a prime supplier for the captivity ' industry'. With tighter regulations it became more costly to obtain an animal from the wild, a factor for an operator when considering if a show could continue to replace a regular dying star attraction and remain profitable. This factor probably closed a lot of the smaller, less profitable facilities.
The people of the UK also became aware that something was wrong in those tanks and picketed and demonstrated at marine parks across the country. During this time there was the famous Penn Cove captures in 1970, and a strong anti whaling movement and people were becoming aware and were not afraid of saying so.
By the mid 1980s, only six dolphinaria remained, Knowsley, Whipsnade, Morecambe, Brighton, Windsor and Flamingo Land and the early 1980's Greenpeace itself usually more preoccupied with anti-whaling, did launch a private prosecution against Flamingo Land for breach of an import license. Doug Cartlidge an ex -trainer was at this time a rather lone battler against UK dolphinaria, challenging the Department of the Environment and local councils responsible for issuing operating licenses under the Zoo Licensing Act.
A significant factor in the closure of the remaining dolphinaria came in 1985.
One of Windsor Safari Park's key attractions was Seaworld, a dolphinarium complex housing dolphins, a killer whale, penguins and sea lions. The dolphins, sea lions and killer whale performed in acrobatic shows several times a day.
Orca Winnie's move to Windsor was actually a form of "payment", as Sea World had promised a small Orca to Windsor in exchange for their large male Winston, whom they had taken when looking for a breeding bull for their collection.
Winnie remained alone at Windsor for several years following Hoi Wai (the remaining whale from her pod) was sold in 1979. During that time, a few Dolphins, kept in an adjacent pool, were her only social contact. A few years later, a teenage male named Nemo moved in. unfortunately, instead of providing companionship for Winnie, Nemo terrorized her. Already a shy, ready-to-please whale, Winnie's soft temperament made her an easy target for Nemo's rage. This lasted over a year, until Nemo died of blood cancer.
During Winnie's 13 years at Windsor, she was routinely kept half-starved in order to insure her cooperation in performances. She was also usually in a state of depression, resting listlessly at the bottom of her shallow pool. These things, combined with the loss of her pool and pod mates, caused Winnie to end up a very confused and depressed whale.
Then, in 1991, Sea World, who had captured her and given her to Windsor, got her back. With the passing of new laws in Britain, keeping Marine Mammals captive became almost impossible. Windsor, with no way to expand her pool, choose to give her back to Sea World. Sea World of Florida thus imported her on a breeding loan.
In 1992 Windsor went into receivership and
The dolphins were relocated to Dolfinarium Harderwijk in the Netherlands.
Missy and Silver at the Brighton Dolphinarium
and Rocky at the Morecombe dolphinarium.
The ethical arguments against keeping dolphins in human care persuaded most tourists not to patronize Marineland, and the city council to withdrew the dolphinarium’s operating license. The business had no choice — its dolphin display was no longer viable. Losing ticket sales, the management of Marineland eventually agreed to sell the dolphin for £120,000, money that was raised with the help of a number of animal charities, including the Born Free Foundation, and supported by the Mail on Sunday, which launched the "Into the Blue" campaign to free Britain's captive dolphins.
In 1989, a huge 4000 signature petition calling for “Rocky” the bottlenose dolphin’s release from captivity at Morecambe’s Marine Land was handed to the UK government. By 1991, "Rocky’s" case became one of the most publicised calls for release into the wild with huge amounts of media coverage, public protest and celebrity support. This lead to the eventual closure of Marine Land and the creation of the "Into the Blue" project which saw "Rocky" and two female captive bottlenose dolphins, "Missie" and "Silver" relocated to a rehabilitation sea pen and then released in the Turks and Caicos Islands in September 1991. Within days Rocky was seen swimming with a pod of wild dolphins.
Flamingo land at the time was quite a big concern in the UK dolphin industry.
In 1965 Hick decided to float the zoo on the UK Stock Exchange and became Associated Pleasure Parks.
From 1975 until early 1977 the dolphinarium, which had been rebranded Ocean World, was operated and the dolphins supplied by Jervale Ltd a company owned by filtration engineer John Nolan and his wife. Jervale also operated a dolphin holding facilities in South Emsall for a short period of time in 1974 and supplied animals for Ocean Park in Seaburn, Sunderland. In 1975 two of their dolphins were involved in dolphin show in Taiwan for three months returning to the Flamingo Park in July that year and three week Christmas show in Sheffield Road Baths in Rotherham. They also supplied a sea lion show in the summer of 1975 at the now disused dolphinarium at Porthcawl. In May 1976 the Nolan's transported a dolphin to Yorkshire Television Studios in Leeds which was displayed a portable tank for the popular science programme "Don't Ask Me". The animal safely returned to Flamingo Park the next day.
Their slave-trade owner would never allow them to be free as Rocky was, instead the dolphins were moved to Kolmarden in Sweden on a breeding loan. Some years later they were still there, two had produced captive calves and one was barren. That dolphin was simply moved, a seeming mere utility, to a dolphinarium in Italy. No thought of the trauma caused to three dolphins together most of their lives.