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This Popular Tourist Activity Continues In Cancun Despite Nationwide Ban

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There are many reasons why tourists choose to visit Cancun over other places around the world for their beach resort vacation getaway.

One of the three top reasons is to connect with nature. That’s why connecting with animals, especially those in the sea, such as sea lions and dolphins, is so popular with tourists visiting the Mexican Caribbean hotspot.

However, despite their popularity with visitors, this type of ocean animal show was made illegal by the Mexican Senate in 2022 and yet, the show goes on.

Dolphin jumping midair in big swimming pool of a luxury hotel building

Cancun Animal Shows

Last year, the Mexican Senate, concerned about the safety of the animals and the important connections to nature and sustainability among travelers, banned aquatic parks and aquariums across the country from conducting dolphin and sea lion shows for travelers.

Part of the passed legislation, which was signed into law, required the release of the more than 400 dolphins into a national marine sanctuary established 30 years ago in the Bay of Campeche.

swimming with dolphins

However, many of the aquariums and aquatic parks around the country, including those in the Mexican Caribbean, have delayed the release of the animals and continue to host shows and charge tourists fees to attend dolphin and sea lion performances to this day.

Performances Continue

Tourists wanting to see the dolphin shows at aquatic parks in Cancun pay roughly $175 for a dolphin experience encounter, according to local news reports on the topic.

Tourists watching dolphins from a boat

Despite the high fees, animal rights nonprofits claimed in a local news report that the animals are deprived of food, and the companies are making tens of thousands of dollars off the animals.

They are actively making tourists aware of the alleged mistreatment and recent laws by distributing flyers and encouraging visitors not to purchase tickets to see the animals perform.

They hope the lack of attendance will cause the aquatic parks in the Mexican Caribbean to comply with the law and release the animals to the required marine life sanctuary.


“These companies have virtually bottomless pockets, and things being the way they are, the only way they will ever really stop is if people wake up to the cruelty the captivity of dolphins represents,” said Quintana Roo-based lawyer Raúl López in a report about the issue.

Not An Easy Solution

The aquariums and aquatic parks across Mexico, including those near the tourist hotspot of Cancun, contend that returning these dolphins and sea lions to the wild is not the best care for their needs in this situation.

Two dolphins in captivity seen from above swim close to each other, their tails almost touching. Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

They argue that the animals were raised in captivity and don’t recognize and understand life outside of the aquariums and aquatic parks.

Forced to live on their own without the skills obtained in the wild puts these animals at more risk than simply letting them live where they are.

As it is, marine biologists are pointing out the struggles wild dolphins have been experiencing lately, including several which have beached at locations in the Yucatan, including Chelem and Isla Holbox.

Tourists watching wild dolphins from a boat

What Tourists Need to Know

Tourists need to make up their own minds about the situation as we are not choosing sides in this ethical dilemma between nature and tourism in Quintana Roo.

Both sides have a good argument about why the animals should be, and shouldn’t be, returned back to the wild.

swimming unidentified tourists with dolphins at the Dolphinarium in Cancun at the Barcelo Maya Beach Hotel

Hopefully, the two sides can find a middle ground that is ultimately in the best care of the much-loved and highly intelligent sea animals.

However, travelers need to know that the dolphin and sea lion shows are officially banned in the country, and attending one in the Mexican Caribbean is an illegal activity.

It is ultimately up to visitors to decide the fate of these popular performances and the animals involved.

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