CITA still against dolphinariums

The Cayman Islands Tourism Association would like to respond to comments published in the press regarding the two captive dolphin parks that have recently opened on Grand Cayman.

Our position has not changed; the CITA has been on record since 2002 as being opposed to these facilities and we have well researched and documented facts that support this position.

Already both captive dolphin attractions have employed many of their standard tactics to convince the public that they are a humane and valuable asset to the community.

Local tourism and marine pioneers have been used to spread their doctrine, the wonderful children of the Lighthouse School invited to play with the animals and small children and families pictured with the ‘smiling’ dolphins. And please don’t be misled about the employment opportunities for Caymanians and the economic value of new jobs; the majority of employees are foreign and that is not going to change any time soon.

There are no adequate facilities for captive dolphins. There are more elaborate and sophisticated ones, but no dolphin parks are suitable as wild dolphins swim hundreds of miles a day and have the whole ocean in which to live in.

They have been recorded to dive to depths of hundreds of feet. They live in a social family pod and nurse, nurture, teach and protect their young. Statistics show that the average life of a dolphin in captivity is seven years vs. 50 years in the wild.

Saying that the facilities in Cayman are world class or provide the best in care is very misleading. It is based on the underlying principal that some captive dolphin facilities are acceptable and it is the CITA’s position that they are not. These are highly intelligent mammals. They do not deserve to be captured, taken from their families, stressed and forced to live the rest of their lives in a swimming pool that is perhaps only 20 feet deep.

Regarding educating the public; yes we understand that both adults and children learn about dolphin behaviour and biology when they swim with these animals. People would probably love to ride a camel or see a wild cat too; however, that does not make it right to capture and incarcerate them here in Cayman.

Of course dolphins are entertaining, but this is something that they are forced to do in order to obtain their food. Dolphins are clever, which is why they are a highly valued commodity; they will exercise their skills in order to survive. If doing tricks is what it takes then they will do them. They are a sentient creature, which means that they have self awareness similar to humans. Surely we should not capture them for our own entertainment.

The CITA has opposed the captive dolphin facilities from long before any permits were granted, development started or animals imported, but we were not listened to.

In August 2008 we asked the Government to place a ban on any future imports of dolphins with a well documented paper on the impacts on capture to the wild dolphin populations. We have had no response to this request. The practice of herding, terrifying, wounding and killing is typical of all dolphin captures.

The Cayman park owners could argue that they purchased their dolphins from other parks, however the other parks will now have to restock their own facilities from the wild, so there can truly be no distinction.

If the developers are correct in their claim that these creatures breed successfully in captivity, there will be no need to import any more. We will stop being a party to the capture of wild dolphins and this is something that we can be proud of.

There is nothing Caymanian, sustainable or indigenous to having captive dolphin facilities in Cayman. We should not be a copycat destination but instead embrace ‘all things Caymanian’.

The CITA strongly supports tourism, including new development and diversification of our existing product. We encourage the growth of new properties, dive sites, restaurants and attractions but the CITA will not support either of the captive dolphin parks.

Will people visit these places? Perhaps, but is it right for the dolphins and our future vision of tourism in the Cayman Islands? That is for you to decide.

Once again, we beseech the Government to seriously consider the implementation of a ban on the future importation of cetaceans, as many other nations have already done.

We need to protect these marine mammals, the environment, the reputation of our tourism product and the culture and heritage of the Cayman Islands. Let your voice on this matter be heard.

You can request email copies of our position papers by emailing [email protected]

Cayman Islands Tourism Association