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To dolphin or not to dolphin?

Travel & news discussion about the Cayman Islands

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To dolphin or not to dolphin?

Postby KarenS » Fri Mar 03, 2006 8:40 am

At issue is whether the Cayman's having "dolphin discovery" facilities is a good idea for other than those who will benefit financially from them.

The Cayman Compass reports: "Planning permission has been granted for the construction of two separate dolphin entertainment facilities in West Bay.

However, the parks need to fulfil other requirements in order to be permitted to open for business.

Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. is a franchise with headquarters in Mexico and is to be located at the site of the old Turtle Farm in West Bay, as part of Boatswain’s Beach, but privately run.

Dolphin Cove Cayman is associated with Dolphin Cove Jamaica and is to be located south of Calypso Grill in Batabano, West Bay, by the North Sound.

The eight dolphins for this facility are to come from Dolphin Discovery, Cancun, Mexico. However, just this year the Mexican Government has put into effect their amended Wildlife Law, saying that effective immediately the “Importation, exportation, and re–exportation of specimens of any marine mammal or primate species are prohibited”.

It is unclear whether this will hinder Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. from importing eight bottlenose dolphins from Mexico.

It is understood that the dolphins for Dolphin Cove Cayman will come from Cuba. When contacted this week by the Caymanian Compass, Kent Eldemire of Tropical Real Estate Ltd., who is connected with this dolphin facility, said he had no comment.

Department of Agriculture Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Alfred Benjamin confirmed that animal import licences for dolphins have been granted to both entities. These are subject to certain health requirements at the time of importation and other requirements being in place prior to the importation of the animals. These form part of the Department of Agriculture’s conditions and include welfare concerns such as housing, husbandry and storm contingency plans.

A discharge permit must also be issued by the Water Authority, and the process is being worked on for Dolphin Discovery (Cayman). It is not yet confirmed that a discharge permit has been granted to Dolphin Cove Cayman.

The Water Authority is charged with protecting the ground water and water that flows from land into the sea.

The Department of Environment is working with the agencies and authorities involved in the dolphin park approval process to ensure that impacts on the natural environment are considered appropriately, said DoE Director Gina Ebanks–Petrie.

It is understood that another franchise out of Honduras, Living Sea, is also seeking to set up an operation, also in West Bay.

Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands has commended the Mexican organisations who have worked with their Government to implement the change in law.

“Mexico now joins other countries that in recent years are stopping the spread of the captive dolphin tourist entertainment park industry. Some of the countries prohibiting the trade in captive dolphins are the Solomon Islands, Panama, Australia, Netherlands Antilles, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Haiti.

“Cuba is now the only Caribbean country capturing and exporting dolphins for the captive dolphin tourist entertainment park industry,” said a KDFCI release.

Spokesperson for KDFCI Billy Adam said neither the previous nor current Government have responded to a letter written to the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee on 23 March, 2004 requesting information and querying the requirements of the Animals Law (2003 Revision).

“Since then other requests for information from this and the previous Government on the status of the establishment of the captive dolphin tourist entertainment parks and Government’s compliance with international environmental obligations remain unanswered,” he said.

Speaking as Chairman of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee Dr. Benjamin said he has supplied the Ministry for District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing with the information to respond to Mr. Adam’s queries.

The release goes on to point out environmental factors relating to these types of attractions. “Around the world, marine environmental damage to reefs and other marine life is also caused by the nutrient and bacteria in sewage outflows from captive dolphin tourist entertainment parks.

“In the Cayman Islands, the raw farm sewage outflow, however, would first pass through the Government–owned Cayman Turtle Farm, before further polluting our already damaged marine environment. Therefore, Government will have contributory liabilities.”

The KDFCI group points out that the CITA’s watersports division has for many years clearly stated that after studying the captive dolphin entertainment industry they do not support Government allowing them here. The Cayman Humane Society has also expressed to Government that they are against it.

The Marine Conservation Board has also spoken out against the setting up a swim–with–dolphins facility, saying that the Cayman Islands’ unique tourism product can be undermined by such an addition and counter to the Cayman Islands reputation as en environmentally responsible, proactive, marine–based tourism destination.

The Board has also acknowledged the dolphins are more predisposed to the adversities of captivity than are most other animals."

Opinions? Comments?
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Postby GCSandy » Fri Mar 03, 2006 10:14 am

NO Dolphin park!!!!!!!!!
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Postby anela » Fri Mar 03, 2006 4:28 pm

Absolutely against it. And I would encourage others to boycott all such parks.
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Postby scott » Fri Mar 03, 2006 5:39 pm

I do not like to see this type of “attraction” spreading. These are not “fish”, these are animals with the same cranial capacity as humans. I have had the good fortune to have been sailing and have them just pop up right next to my boat and look right at me and make their noises. When you look them in the eye you know you are not looking at a “fish” – you are looking at an intelligence not seen in most other animals. The first time they did this with me (Gulf of Mexico, off the west coast of Florida) I asked someone who was familiar with the area about this behavior, because they had been obviously trying to keep pace with my boat and watch me at the same time. He said that it was the way that they played, and that what they were doing was actually racing with me. Is that the kind of life that should be kept in a pen for tourists who are too pampered and lazy to experience them in any natural environment? I really believe that this kind of “attraction” is caused by the desires of the cruise industry to add “value” to their stops, and by the desires of local governments to appease the cruise industry. See this site to better understand what could possibly be happening with this industry:

Which states that:

"A noteworthy trend is emerging among Caribbean nations, where the governments themselves are beginning to recognize the deleterious effects of destroying pristine marine ecosystems. The Cayman Island Government is the first to assess severe fines on cruise lines which do not adhere to waste disposal requirements or commit other "marine environmental offenses in Cayman waters." Collectively the various constituencies involved in cruise management and pollution control issues are beginning to address the problems and work to improve water quality in the Caribbean". Good job, Cayman!

We have spent past vacations in Cozumel and became involved with their Humane Society, both in donations and sending them supplies for their spay programs – because I sell medical equipment, etc., I am able to send what they use for those programs. Cozumel is very third world in this area – their Veterinarian lived in one small room in back of the building. What I learned about the Cozumel dolphin businesses came from those folks as well as the media. The first “dolphin experience” was at Chankanob Park – a supposed “ecological” park with fake Mayan ruins that was really just a depot for the tourists to spend a day. I believe this "dolphin experience" was run by the Dolphin Discovery folks, but I may be wrong on that. But when there were tropical storms and hurricanes around guess where the dolphins were sent to protect them? To a local hotel swimming pool! Gee, imagine the fun they had there! Perhaps they could order drinks! Bet they just loved those pool chemicals, doesn’t everyone? And, no, I am not making this up.

Then the local government decided that perhaps the trip to the “park” was just too far for some so they allowed yet another “dolphin experience” to be put in closer to the cruise piers. This one was not even as reputable as the one at Chankanob. I may be off base but I think these animals came either via Cuba or an African country. Several of them died in transit - perhaps they did not care for their accommodations. No doubt they didn’t have an ocean view. And then Wilma wasted Cozumel – Chankanob Park wasn’t just damaged – it was no longer there. Dolphins? Who knows. But congrats to the Mexican government for their recent stand on this issue.

To me the sad thing is that your Island seems to have prided itself on – and done a great job of - promoting their efforts in saving an endangered species - the Blue Iguana, as well as efforts to preserve the reef systems. What kind of message does it send to an increasingly environmentally conscience public to offer this type of “attraction”?. Is that the image that Grand Cayman wants to promote? Will local industries gain business or lose it?
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Postby KarenS » Tue Mar 07, 2006 8:10 am

The Cayman Compass reported this view by Dale Fogis: "As the Cayman Islands Tourism Association carries out a survey among its members regarding the issue of bringing dolphins to the Cayman Islands, I feel I have to say something on the issue having researched the subject.

I have travelled the world over the years and every place I have visited, where you could expect to see dolphins in the wild, I have taken a boat trip in the hope of catching my first glimpse of a dolphin swimming in the ocean where they belong. After many years taking those boat trips, looking and hoping I did not see any.

My quest to see dolphins in their own natural environment was reinforced at an early age. When as a child, my parents took me to a local zoo to watch captive dolphins perform, on demand, for the audience.

It did nothing for me and I am sure it did nothing for the dolphins apart from being rewarded with the odd fish, classical conditioning and mistreatment I am sure coming into play.

Some years ago while standing on a pier in the Indian Ocean I looked down and spotted a family of dolphins playing and swimming together without a care in the world so it seems, It was a beautiful sight and worth the wait after so many years.

I have seen dolphins again in the wild in different locations around the world including the Caribbean so there are places for people to visit in order to watch dolphins.

Dolphins are not dumb. They are intelligent, social and are wide–ranging animals and to bring dolphins into Cayman where they will be forced to live in artificial, confined conditions, away from their natural family groups will be shameful. There is evidence that many dolphins die very young in their new unnatural enclosures.

Dolphins continue to be captured from the wild to supply the growing demand for swimming with dolphins and the methods used to capture and transport dolphins can be shockingly cruel and many die during capture operations or in transit.

In captivity dolphins have a lower survival rate than in the wild, they are unable to communicate, hunt, roam, mate and play as they would in the wild.

The stress of their confinement often results in behavioural abnormalities, illness, and lowered resistance to disease and death.

Hurricane Ivan has shown what can happen and will happen again at some stage so what of the serious consequences for the dolphins held in its enclosure by the oceans edge?

It is a shame that at a time when Cayman is attempting to introduce more Caymanian culture to visitors that we have businessmen attempting to use their own culture of getting their hands on to even more of the mighty dollar at any cost, so it seems.

No doubt they will be checking out the members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association before they complete their surveys of which the results will be used to formulate the official CITA position.

What does the church have to say on the matter or have they used up all their energy protesting the recent visiting gay cruise?

Most visitors to the Cayman Islands come from the United States where there are plenty of Dolphin shows, petting pools and swim with the dolphin enclosures so what are we saying here, we are just jumping on the band wagon and Cayman has no culture of its own to attract visitors.

I say we do not need to bring dolphins in to the Cayman Islands, Cayman is not Disneyworld or indeed a circus, it’s a small Caribbean island with some moral values and it needs to be kept that way."
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Postby KarenS » Fri Mar 17, 2006 8:05 am

The latest report from Cayman Compass: "The Cayman Islands Tourism Association has taken a position against the establishment of captive dolphin entertainment parks in the Cayman Islands following a recent on–line member–only survey.

Seventy–four per cent of the respondents voted against the introduction of captive dolphin theme parks here.

A CITA watersports sector position paper on the issue urges the Government to put laws in place to prohibit captive dolphin facilities in Cayman before it is too late. CITA is a private, membership–based organisation.

The survey, conducted in response to requests from the membership, also showed 13 per cent of the respondents were neither in favour or opposed to the parks, and the remaining 13 per cent were in favour of them.

The establishment of three dolphinariums is pending in Grand Cayman, all for West Bay.

CITA President Karie Bergstrom said if the dolphin facilities go ahead there will be a public backlash and Cayman will have to learn how to mitigate damage from this.

The survey results are to be presented to the Minister for Tourism at CITA’s next meeting with him, she said.

Wednesday morning Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts was in a meeting and could not comment on the issue. Minister Clifford was off–island."

For the entire article go to: ... ID=1011775
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Again, more on the dolphin proposal

Postby KarenS » Sat Mar 18, 2006 9:29 am

As reported in the Caymanian Compass: "Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford said Thursday that any legislation that the Government might introduce with respect to dolphinarium facilities in Cayman could not, as a general principle of law, have retroactive effect.

Cayman Islands residents have learned there is no legal way to keep captive dolphin facilities out of the Cayman Islands. Many residents sport stickers like this one on their vehicles opposing the parks.

This means that there is no legal impediment – now or in the future – to prevent three proposed dolphin facilities from opening in West Bay.

The current Cayman Islands Government has yet to take an official stance on dolphin facilities, but Mr. Clifford said that would change soon.

'I expect that within two weeks, we should be able to announce what this Government’s policy is with respect to dolphins,' he said."
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And another opinion...

Postby KarenS » Wed Mar 22, 2006 8:26 am

From Cayman Net News: "It was encouraging to hear Government say at the most recent press briefing, last Friday, that in light of the Cayman Islands Tourist Association’s (CITA) opposition to the introduction of Dolphinariums here, they will be talking to the tourist body.

It was extremely disappointing however that the administration said it will not be halting those projects which already have planning permission.

As noted by CITA’s President Karie Bergstom, in Cayman Net News’ Business Monday 20 March, the operation of these attractions will present the Cayman Islands’ tourist body with a serious public relations challenge.

It won’t be the developers of these so called ‘attractions’ that will have to deal with the negative and adverse publicity bound to be generated when they open — it will be the rest of the tourist sector.

As the owners of these reportedly, three, possibly even four marine attractions make money from the cruise tourists and others that may well be drawn to such attractions, the rest of the tourist sector here will be battling the negative side.

Such attractions are circus like and unwelcome at best, at worst they are environmental disasters that will impact on the delicate eco-systems that have contributed to the outstanding beauty of Cayman’s natural marine environment, and as a result our successful dive sector is bound to suffer.

As the rest of the world begins to move away from the development of such unsophisticated tourist attractions and towards more eco-friendly tourist products it is a crying shame that the Cayman Islands is moving towards developing not just one dolphin ‘attraction’ but possibly four.

Even Mexico, the country supposedly supplying one of the proposed dolphinariums, with the marine mammals, has banned the attractions.

This, together with Government’s sudden realization that the main tourist body here is fundamentally apposed, illustrates that the original proposals for these attractions were not properly discussed or thought out.

Applications were made and granted with virtually no discussion of what such sites would mean to the rest of this country’s tourist product and above all the animals themselves.

Encouraging tourists to ride on the back of some of nature’s most incredible animals, or have them jumping through hopes for a few fish, is in complete contrast to all of the other environmental protection measures the country has taken to preserve Cayman’s exquisite natural environment.

In contrast to this dumbed down end of peer animal abuse entertainment, the real Cayman Islands tourist product is about the bluff, on Cayman Brac, the mastic trail in North Side, the blue iguana programme at the botanical Gardens in Frank Sound, the development of marine protection zones and the internationally applauded Little Cayman Marine Research Institute and some of the best diving in the world.

Everywhere else throughout the tourist sector in this country, all of those involved are working hard to preserve our naturally beautiful environment and help the indigenous species of these Islands survive.

Dolphins are not indigenous to the Cayman Islands and even if they were, they do not give human’s ‘lifts’ or balance balls on their noses and jump up for fish tossed at them, in their natural ocean habitat.

Moreover, as well as offering a miserable life for the creatures in captivity, the dolphin’s excrement will present a serious threat to Cayman’s reefs and marine eco-system.

The only people who will benefit from these proposed ‘attractions’ will be the developers and owners of the parks, who are bound to do well from the sheer number of cruise passengers coming here — some of whom will be willing to visit such attractions.

It is essential that the Government takes the opposition, from not just CITA but many other people here to these planned eco-disasters, seriously.

The Cayman Islands should not under any circumstances, sacrifice its reputation and its environment for the profit the handful of businesspeople involved are set to gain from these unsophisticated and outdated modes of tourist entertainment."
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