Dolphins are coming

Even if the Cayman Islands Government decides it is against captive dolphin facilities, and legislation is warranted to prevent such facilities, that legislation could not apply retroactively, Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford said Thursday.

This means that there is no legislative impediment for three proposed dolphin facilities in West Bay – Dolphin Discovery (Cayman), The Living Sea and Dolphin Cove – to open.

Import permits for bottlenose dolphins have already been granted to these parks, subject to a number of conditions from the Department of Agriculture. In addition, planning permission has been granted to at least two of the parks to build the dolphin facilities and it is understood a discharge permit has been granted to Dolphin Cove by the Water Authority.

Mr. Clifford explained why any new legislation would not affect dolphin facilities already granted the necessary approvals to operate:

‘It is a general principle in law that it can not apply retroactively,’ he said. ‘You can have a situation where someone could have done something that was perfectly acceptable and then there is a law passed years later making it illegal. [The people who were operating under the old law] can’t be subject to that law.’

In general, Mr. Clifford said any new laws should not create undue economic hardships on people who were operating under previous laws.

Mr. Clifford’s comments came days after the release of the results of a survey conducted by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association that showed that 74 per cent of its members were against the introduction of captive dolphin facilities in Cayman.

In a Caymanian Compass online readers poll conducted in December 2005, more than 92 per cent of nearly 4,000 respondents said Cayman should not allow captive dolphin facilities here.

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.

Mr. Clifford acknowledged discussing the matter with CITA several weeks ago, and said the organisation’s input on the dolphinarium issue was an important part of the Government’s decision-making process.

Currently, there are no laws against dolphin facilities here in Cayman, Mr. Clifford said.

Companies wishing to open dolphin facilities only have to get various permits to import dolphins, build the facility and discharge waste water safely. There are also guidelines on the housing and handling of the dolphins once they are here that must be met.

‘There is no licence as such that is required from the Ministry for such an attraction,’ Mr. Clifford said, adding that many of the other permits required for the proposed dolphin facilities were granted during the previous government’s administration.