Dolphin advocates speak out at conference

Stringent regulations for captive dolphin facilities reflecting those of jurisdictions like the UK are the only way to ensure proposed dolphin facilities in the Cayman Islands will be able to meet acceptable standards.

Christina, Sheila and Guieppe

Staffing the Keep Dolphin Free Cayman Islands booth at the FCCA Trade Show Tuesday afternoon were, from left, Christina OSullivan, Sheila Aronfeld and Guiseppe Gatta. Photo: Alan Markoff

That was the message Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands was hoping to send to the Cayman Islands government, which has agreed to permit construction of two such facilities, at a press conference held Tuesday 31 October at the FCCA Conference.

The discussion panel including KDFCI’s Billy Adam, Giuseppe Gatta and Sheila Bissett of the Cayman Islands Humane Society, Martha Gilkes of the Antigua and Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Council, Christine O’Sullivan of the Jamaica Environment Trust, and dolphin advocate Dr. Naomi Rose of the International Humane society.

The group explained the rationale behind their opposition to captive dolphin on humane, tourism and environmental grounds, exploring a range of potential negative consequences the proposed facilities may have for the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Gatta and Ms Rose explained their opposition on humane grounds, calling into question the thinking behind holding animals accustomed to ranges spanning hundreds of miles, and possessing voracious hunting habits, to then be contained in small tanks, asking potential facility proponents to consider the dolphins’ point of view.

In a regional comparison, Ms Gilkes outlined the hostile global opposition the tourism industry in Antigua and Barbuda experienced when the islands announced their intention to capture and display wild dolphins.

Although global opposition did not sway government support for that jurisdiction’s project, eventual environmental problems associated with flooding and effluent damage to surrounding waters and coral reefs led to the facility eventually being shut down.

Mr. Adam further elaborated on his fears for the conditions of the waters in proximity to the planned Cayman facilities, saying that at present insufficient regulations exist to manage the effluent from the facilities.

‘This will negatively impact product Cayman, which in a large part is dependent on our coral reefs,’ he said.

Ms O’Sullivan related the Jamaican experience with captive dolphin facilities, saying that eight captive dolphins have died in that country in the past four years, which in her organization’s view shows captivity is not conducive to the survivability of the animals.

Dr. Rose further elaborated on the fate of captive dolphins, describing how captive dolphins have a similar or lower survival rate to dolphins in the wild, even though the threats wild dolphins face are removed from the equation.

‘We are loving dolphins to death,’ she said. ‘These are extremely intelligent, long-lived predatory animals weighing hundreds of pounds, which can be very aggressive, and which have complex family structures, yet we are expecting them to be content in these captive conditions.”

‘Dolphin facilities in the Cayman Islands should not be permitted to operate without the establishment of extremely strict regulations that are made in the interest of these animals.’

A campaign strategy remains to be revealed outlining how KDFCI hopes to overturn the Government’s decision.

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