Dolphinarium raises waste concerns

A report that found the Cayman Turtle Farm has been dispersing unregulated amounts of waste into the sea around its West Bay location implied the problem could become worse with the planned addition of a dolphin discovery centre on the property.

It’s anticipated Dolphin Discovery Cayman will open toward the end of this year on property it will lease from the Turtle Farm (also known as Boatswain’s Beach). The dolphin discovery centre will allow visitors to see, touch, and even swim with the dolphins.

According to Turtle Farm/Boatswain’s Beach Acting Managing Director Joseph Ebanks, the dolphin centre will pay for its own waste treatment system, but that system will be monitored and regulated by the Turtle Farm.

A recent review by the Office of the Complaints Commissioner found that the Turtle Farm had ignored requirements to obtain a waste discharge licence from the Water Authority-Cayman for years.

Complaints Commissioner John Epp raised questions about whether that licensing process, which is being addressed by the Turtle Farm, should also make provisions for the addition of the dolphin centre on the property.

‘The environmental impact may be heightened,’ Mr. Epp wrote in his report. ‘The Department of Environment, citing studies of (dolphin) facilities in Australia and parts of the Caribbean such as Cozumel, is concerned about the acceleration of the eutrophication process as a result of the excess nutrients caused by waste from the dolphin facility.’

‘A mature large dolphin generates three to four pounds of fecal waste each day, in addition to urine and waste food. It is believed that the dolphin facility, if successful, will house eight dolphins,’ the report stated.

The concern with eutrophication is that speeding up the growth of algae and other underwater plant life by discharging excess nutrients could effectively choke off the dissolved oxygen available in the ecosystem, causing other life forms in the area like fish and barnacles to die out.

The complaints commissioner’s review of the Turtle Farm cited anecdotal evidence from the Department of Environment that showed that coral reefs in the area of the tourist facility’s effluent discharges had been damaged or destroyed by those discharges.

Effluent includes all material, liquid and solid, which flows into the sea from a property.

Mr. Ebanks said a professional review of the Turtle Farm’s wastewater treatment and discharge options was being undertaken by a consultant and included plans to allow the dolphin discovery centre to use the Turtle Farm’s sewerage system. That review is expected to be complete within a few weeks.

Water Authority Director Gelia Frederick-van Genderen said the major issue was not whether the two operations should have a separate discharge system, but rather what types of waste were being handled and the level of treatment they would receive prior to discharge into the sea.

In his comments to the complaints commissioner, Mr. Ebanks said he considered the addition of Dolphin Discovery Cayman to the Turtle Farm’s waste discharge system a fairly simple matter.

‘This (dolphin centre) is not a new business,’ Mr. Ebanks is quoted as saying in the report. ‘These guys have units in Mexico and other parts of the world so they’re an existing business and have a template. So we can take whatever their discharges areā€¦and inform the Water Authority.’

Mr. Ebanks said once the consultant’s report on the Turtle Farm’s wastewater treatment options is complete and accepted by the Water Authority, they will issue a conditional licence.

Following the issuance of the licence, he said the facility would begin installing the system, perform tests and report back to the authority. He was not certain how long that process might take.

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