Dolphin debate re-opens

Local campaign group Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands is still pushing against any captive dolphin facilities in Cayman in a fresh move this week with the new Government.

This week sees a special public presentation by diver and environmentalist Martha Watkins-Gilkes and a series of meetings between, she, the Keep Dolphins Free campaign group and the new government this Thursday.

‘Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands will continue in co-operation with overseas organizations for our campaign in the Cayman Islands to bring awareness of this cruel industry, which is so often identified by their universal corrupt illegal activities in the capture, transport, trade, sources of harmful marine environmental pollution and keeping of these magnificent mammals,’ reads a press release from the local campaign group.

An animal import license was issued to Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. on 7 March, 2005. This license for eight bottlenose dolphins is subject to certain health requirements at the time of importation and was issued following over two years due diligence by the Department of Agriculture. The license is also subject to all requirements being in place prior to the importation of the animals. The license was issued under the previous UDP Government.

New Tourism and Environment Minister Charles Clifford has said that although an area of the Turtle Farm site has already been leased to Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd for a swim-with-dolphin facility to be constructed there, the Government has not made any decision on whether it will permit such a facility to go ahead, but they are looking at it very closely.

Swimming with dolphins is becoming increasingly popular in places like the Caribbean and Mexico, where hundreds of dollars are spent at a time by tourists for a swim with dolphins in captivity at some facilities.

Recently, new regulations have come to light in Costa Rica, prohibiting humans from swimming with dolphins or whales and from them being kept in captivity.

Companies in Costa Rica take tourists on tours of the open sea to observe dolphins and whales and the new regulations will keep it that way.

Another move that pleases the campaign group Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands is that of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises which is no longer offering dolphin encounter programmes in any of its ports of call on the grounds of responsible ecological practices and standing against capture and use of marine mammals for humans’ amusement.

This cruise line occasionally visits Grand Cayman as part of its Caribbean schedule. The luxury cruise line, through its onboard environmental education programmes in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, encourages guests to become responsible environmental citizens.

Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands said, ‘The Cayman Islands has much to offer cruise visitors without having to become just another copy-cat cruise destination by allowing the establishment of these facilities in our Islands. We believe that the Cayman Islands should strive to maintain and expand on those things which are uniquely Caymanian.

‘We believe that as more facts about this industry are uncovered other cruise lines will in time also make the right decision to stop selling tickets to captive dolphin entertainment facilities.

It goes on to say that on April 21, 2003 Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society wrote a letter to the Caymanian press and our Government against the establishment of captive dolphin entertainment facilities in Cayman. Because the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman embraces environmental education programs in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society the local campaign group says it encourages Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman to join Radisson Seven Seas in adopting a policy to not sell tickets to any Cayman Islands captive dolphin entertainment facilities, should they be set up.

The Keep Dolphins Free group points out that the CITA’s Water Sports 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 their reasons against it.

The campaign group said it lamented the fact that the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has only held a meeting on one occasion since it had been set up, at which no policy positions were taken. ‘To date all positions, permission, policies of Government on the subject of allowing the establishment of captive dolphin entertainment facilities in the Cayman Islands has been done without the advice of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee,’ said the group.

However, at the Cruise Tourism in the Cayman Islands luncheon last month Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee would be in operation, meeting regularly and abiding by the law.