The Cayman Islands Tourism Association is calling on the Minister of Tourism to ban the future importation of dolphins.
The CITA presented a position paper to the Minister of Tourism and Environment Charles Clifford on the issue on Thursday of last week and they plan to follow up with him in due course on the matter.
‘Once again, we beseech the Cayman Islands Government to seriously consider the implementation of a ban on the future import of cetaceans, as other nations have done, to protect these marine mammals, the environment, the reputation of the Cayman Islands, our large water-associated tourism product and the culture and heritage of these islands,’ the introduction to the paper reads.
In October 2006 the government placed a moratorium on any new captive dolphin facilities but grandfathered in the two facilities that were granted import permits for bottlenose dolphins: Dolphin Discovery (old Cayman Turtle Farm site in West Bay) and Dolphin Cove Cayman (Morgan’s Harbour West Bay).
Both facilities are planning to open in November.
‘If one looks at the countries that are shutting down these types of facilities, the bottom line is that they were forced to do this due to public outcry, environmental damage, boycotts and/or demonstrations. The Cayman Islands Government has taken the first step by placing a moratorium on any new facilities, and we urge the Government to take the next step by imposing a ban on future importations,’ says the position paper.
The report notes that as the Cayman Islands works on creating and stimulating eco-tourism, nature tourism, green globe certifications for properties, along with sustainable tourism programmes, the importation and captivity of any future dolphins to the Cayman Islands will undermine these efforts substantially and directly contradict these efforts.
It states that the Cayman Islands cannot afford to be tarnished with the ongoing support and contribution to the capture and keeping of dolphins.
‘Cayman’s visitors are generally well educated, above average household income visitors. They are Internet savvy, follow the news, care about the environment and support companies, products and destinations that care too,’ the paper states.
The CITA has gone on record from 2002 strongly opposing these captive dolphin facilities, long before any development was done, it adds.
A CITA survey in 2006 showed that 74 per cent of its 61 respondents voted against the introduction of captive dolphin parks here.
President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Stephen Broadbelt spoke about the captive dolphin issue from a business perspective.
‘One of the things that the position paper does not cover is that the customer is not interested in these types of activities anymore. They are offended by this type of circus act.
‘We think it is damaging to the destination as a whole and don’t want to be associated with these types of activities. It’s unfortunate for businesses that don’t want to have anything to do with it,’ he said.
The position paper points out a number of reasons to support a ban, including stating that Cayman’s reputation in the global community is at stake.
‘We are all interconnected in the marine environment, and while captures may not be taking place in Cayman, the effect of us taking other nations’ captured dolphins is just as devastating,’ the report reads.
The paper notes that many countries have imposed a ban on the trade in dolphins, including Mexico and Costa Rica, and emerging market forces are causing established facilities to close in some regions.
‘More than a dozen US facilities have closed in the past decade, due to public outcry, boycotts and/or declining revenue as the public becomes more educated,’ it says.
The report also notes that Cayman’s Animal’s Law (1999) has precedent for the banning of animals for import, for example Pit Bulls, and that the government has the ability to impose further bans.
The paper goes on to say that the National Conservation Law, once enacted, could also provide the legal framework for a ban on the import, export, taking or keeping of cetaceans in the Cayman Islands.
The paper also notes that the Marine Conservation Board, as of 15 August 2008, advised the CITA that it stands by its position against captive dolphin facilities in general.
The report has a quote from the Marine Conservation Board in 2003 stating reasons captive dolphin facilities should not be allowed to become established here: ‘the MCB is alarmed about the additional stresses by the dolphin sewage discharge from captive dolphin facilities into our natural marine environment.’
The CITA paper points out the problem of hurricanes with both developments on the ocean, one on the North West Point Road and the other in the North Sound.
‘The facility at Dolphin Discovery on the NW Point is the site of the old Cayman Turtle Farm. This facility was closed and moved across the street due to continued damage and loss of live turtles after many storms, particularly Hurricane Michelle (2001) and Hurricane Ivan (2004).’
The paper continues, ‘The introduction of more dolphins into Cayman will only cause more depletion of wild dolphin stocks over time due to the inevitable next hurricane that visits Cayman.’
The report states that developers and operators of captive dolphin facilities have claimed many times that they are successful at captive breeding programmes.
‘If this is the case then further import of dolphins should not be needed to sustain the facilities,’ it says. ‘If this is not true, then the captive dolphin population will eventually die out.’
Management of Dolphin Cove said it had ‘no comment’ on the matter when contacted by the Caymanian Compass, while Dolphin Discovery developers did not respond.