Dolphin project pushing ahead

Developers of the proposed dolphinarium for Grand Cayman are very optimistic about moving forward with the project which is now pending approval from the Planning Department.

Owner of Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. Gene Thompson, who, along with Dale Crighton is behind the setting up of a swim-with-dolphin facility in West Bay, said this week, ‘We’re now moving forward as we submitted plans to Planning in September and we’ve worked with Planning to address various issues they have raised.

‘We’re looking forward to a favourable response and we’re optimistic in moving forward,’ said Mr. Thompson.

Commenting on when the facility could be up and running, Mr. Thompson said, ‘Depending on how everything goes we hope to be operational in the third or fourth quarter of next year. We expect next year to be the year we get up and running’.

The multi-million dollar project has already seen the developers put over a million dollars into the swim-with-dolphin-facility.

Speaking on the overall benefits of the dolphinarium to local tourism, Mr. Thompson said that it would be an additional recreational product for visitors and one that has proven very popular in places such as Florida.

Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. has a lease agreement with Cayman Turtle Farm for the site of the old holding tanks for turtles, destroyed during Hurricane Michelle in 2002. The dolphinarium, although it will be run independently, will operate as part of new tourist attraction Boatswain’s Beach.

Mr. Thompson also anticipates that the dolphin facility will benefit the local economy by hiring 40 people, with a significant number of locals to be trained for various positions.

An animal import license was issued to Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. on March 7, 2005 and was issued following over two years due diligence by the Department of Agriculture. This license for eight bottlenose dolphins is subject to certain health requirements at the time of importation and other requirements being in place prior to the importation of the animals. This includes health, transportation, water quality test, quarantine, housing and husbandry. Mr. Thompson said the Department of Agriculture had worked very hard on all these conditions and due diligence.

The dolphins are to come from Dolphin Discovery, Cancun, Mexico.

However, the Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands group headed up by Mr. Billy Adam is strongly against the keeping of captive dolphins, based on environmental and the moral issue of keeping highly intelligent marine mammals in captivity.

The group has also stated that there could be long-term economic implications from such a venture, stating that there is documented scientific evidence from the Global Coral Reef Alliance (a non-profit organisation for the protection and sustainable management of coral reefs) that raw sewage flushed out from captive dolphin facilities, along with rotting uneaten food can cause algae blooms that are damaging to coral reefs.