The Dominican Republic has passed legislation that prohibits the sale of dolphins, Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project reported. The new legislation, published by the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, is said to cover a period of five years. During this time, dolphins cannot be purchased or sold within the Caribbean nation.

While the ruling does not ban the captivity of dolphins at current facilities, Dolphin Project, the longest-running anti-captivity dolphin organization in the world, believes the legislation will still have an impact. The organization commented that the ruling will make it “more difficult, if not impossible” to open new dolphinariums.

Dolphin Project said: “We applaud the Ministry for taking this action, as this is an important advance for local activists who have been working hard to defend the freedom of dolphins.”

“Dolphin Project encourages the government to extend this legislation indefinitely, and eliminate facilities, including swim-with programs that continue to keep dolphins captive for profit.”

A report by Dr. Yolanda Alaniz Pasini for the World Society for the Protection of Animals explored the experience of captive dolphins in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The report found that just 4.2% of deaths of dolphins living in captivity were related to age. The report noted that “most deaths are related to stress, infection, and irresponsible or bad handling.” Further, Pasini commented that “stress underlies in practically 50% of dolphin deaths in captivity.”

Besides performance and forced interaction, the document said that the design of enclosures – which are frequently square, concrete pens – are known to cause boredom and stress. Further, none of the facilities in the country had toys available for the animals.

Increasingly, the public is shifting away from entertainment that relies on the use and exploitation of animals. One of the leading marine mammal parks in the world, SeaWorld, continues to see a decline in popularity. SeaWorld’s report of its third quarter last year revealed revenue per capita, admission per capita, and in-park spending had all dropped. Another report revealed the company lost $20.4 million in its fourth quarter of 2017, leading the CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment to resign.

SeaWorld’s reputation took a hit when several of its marine animals passed away from preventable illnesses. The documentary “Blackfish” covered the controversy and helped to spread awareness surrounding the mistreatment of animals used for entertainment. The film is said to be a major driver in SeaWorld’s underperformance. Recently, leading UK travel company, Thomas Cook, announced it would no longer promote SeaWorld or sell tickets to customers to better align with its “animal welfare policy.”

Notably, Richard Branson recently announced that his international company, Virgin, had partnered with the World Cetacean Alliance to open North America’s first dolphin sea sanctuary. The facility will offer a “natural and much larger home” for several dolphins that were rescued from captivity. In a blog post, Branson said the move will “hopefully set a wonderful example for both marine entertainment and tourism operators who have faced increasing pressure over the welfare of whales and dolphins, collectively known as cetaceans.”

Branson believes the sanctuary is “going to be the first step in a long journey to end the use of captive cetaceans for human entertainment.”