According to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries of South Korea, from 15th December 2023, it became unlawful for public aquariums in the country to purchase new cetaceans for display, as the country revised the law about the management of zoos and aquariums. In addition to prohibiting local aquariums from acquiring new whales and dolphins for display, these facilities will now be illegal to allow visitors to ride, touch, or feed these marine mammals.
Also, it will now be mandatory to obtain state approval to open a new aquarium, with the existing facilities required to meet the new standards criteria within five years, which includes specific guidelines regarding the procedures and schedules for conducting routine medical examinations on captive species within aquariums.
Cho Seung-hwan, Oceans Minister of the South Korean Government, said, “We plan to proactively advertise the changes to ensure their smooth implementation while maintaining cooperation with the aquarium industry.”
There are currently 16 dolphins and five beluga whales at local aquariums in Korea. In October 2023, the Lotte World Aquarium in South Korea filed charges against a local animal rights group for holding a protest within its premises regarding the failure to release a beluga whale. Songpa Police Station said it was pressing charges of destruction of property and interference with business against eight activists from the group Hot Pink Dolphins who, in 2022, they held a protest at the Lotte World Aquarium in Jamsil, southern Seoul, demanding that the company release the beluga whale Bella to a wildlife sanctuary. When it opened in 2014, Lotte World Aquarium had acquired three belugas from Russia, but one died in 2016 and another in 2019, sparking accusations of animal cruelty from local environmental groups.