Captive dolphin facilities defended

Minister doesn’t see negative impacts

Minister for Tourism and the Environment Charles Clifford says he believes the environment will not be negatively impacted by proposed captive dolphin facilities.

Nor does he believe the dive industry will be negatively affected by the setting up of such facilities in the Cayman Islands, besides, perhaps, increased competition in the water activities’ market.

Mr. Clifford was responding to recent comments from divers and environmentalists that Cayman’s environment will suffer because dolphin waste from such facilities causes algae blooms that kill surrounding reefs, and captive dolphins could cause divers to boycott the destination.

The Minister said he understands the environmentalists’ stance on captive dolphin facilities and he said he believes that their primary concern is the environment rather than the captivity issue.

‘If the private sector entities that have expressed the intention to develop such facilities and that have received their permits for such facilities ultimately develop them, I believe that their systems and permits will ensure that our environment is not negatively impacted.

‘So I don’t anticipate any impact on the dive industry other than perhaps on the commercial side, as a dolphinarium will admittedly introduce further competition in the market but we do operate a free market economy and that will not change.

‘Our dive industry is and has always been important to our tourism industry and economy and the Government will continue to put significant support behind it as it has from the birth of our tourism industry.’

Marine environmentalist and President of the Women Divers Hall of Fame Martha Watkins Gilkes had said on a recent visit here, that Cayman could be boycotted by the dive community if such facilities were set up here. This had happened when a captive dolphin facility opened in Antigua. The facility was subsequently closed down because of environmental problems.

At least two dolphin facilities for West Bay, one at Morgan’s Harbour (Dolphin Cove) and one at the old Turtle Farm site (Dolphin Discovery), have been given permission to set up here subject to certain conditions.

One of the conditions is that applicants must obtain a statement from the Department of Environment that acceptable programmes for environmental quality control are proposed, which would prevent environmental degradation and not lead to any serious or irreversible damage to the environment.

Ms Gilkes said that environmental damage from dolphin faeces is well documented in scientific studies done by the Global Coral Reef Alliance on their website globalcoral.org.

Environmentalists also spoke out on the subject of keeping dolphins in captivity. Local award-winning underwater photographer Cathy Church said that dolphins consist of close knit families and to rip them apart and put them in captivity is the opposite of the way the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame feels about what standards in the Cayman Islands should be.

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