Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands campaigner Billy Adam has asked Chamber of Commerce members to boycott this evening’s Business after Hours event at Dolphin Discovery.
Mr. Adam also asked that the Chamber Council re-examine its decision allowing Dolphin Discovery to become a Chamber member.
In an email to Chamber Council members, Mr. Adam objected to the Chamber’s networking event being held at Dolphin Discovery, not only because the facility does not have an operating licence, but also because he believes the dolphin industry is in direct contradiction to the chamber’s stance on protecting the environment.
But in a statement issued Tuesday, the Chamber of Commerce said it would proceed with the Business after Hours event at Dolphin this evening to allow members and guests to view and experience one of Cayman’s newest tourist attractions.
The statement from the Chamber’s Council continued: ‘Government’s approval to allow captive dolphin facilities in the Cayman Islands is regarded as a controversial decision by some environmental and animal welfare advocates.
‘The Chamber of Commerce respects these positions, but we also respect the decision taken by Government to allow captive dolphin facilities to operate here.
‘We understand that there may be some members of the Chamber of Commerce that do not support this decision and may wish not to attend the event, but we also believe that there are other members who may not share this view and we invite them to attend the event on Thursday.’
The Business after Hours programme allows Chamber members to showcase their products and services to the community in a relaxed social environment, said the Chamber of Commerce statement.
In the e-mail sent to Chamber council members and some members of the public and media houses earlier this week, Mr. Adam voiced his objections to the event.
‘Personally I find it disgusting that the Chamber of Commerce will now be organising an event at a location, Dolphin Discovery, located on government land, which by now seems to be a Chamber of Commerce member, operating in violation of Cayman Islands laws.’
Dolphin Discovery, which is located opposite Boatswain’s Beach on North West Point Road, opened for business in December without the required operating licence or a discharge permit.
However, as of last month it began legally discharging its effluent as the Water Authority granted approval through a variation on the Turtle Farm’s marine discharge permit to include the discharge of effluent from Dolphin Discovery.
However, Dolphin Discovery, along with all other commercial animal operations in the Cayman Islands, has not been issued an operating licence, despite a provision in the Animals Law (2003 Revision) requiring it.
This is because the enabling regulations necessary for issuing these licences have not been put in place by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Mr. Adam told the Caymanian Compass, ‘The Chamber of Commerce is laundering lawbreaking by taking membership from known lawbreaking companies and by hosting the event.’
In the Chamber’s statement it said the Chamber Council approved Dolphin Discovery as a Corporate Member in September 2008.
‘Section 4 of the Chamber’s Articles of Association outlines the membership criteria. It states that membership in the Chamber of Commerce is open to any persons, firms, associations or corporations of good standing interested in the purposes of the Association. Dolphin Discovery submitted all of the required business licenses as part of their application and is a member in good standing.’
In Mr. Adam’s email, he went on to criticise the Chamber of Commerce and its environmental stance, pointing its Environmental Pledge initiative in 2007. ‘The Chamber of Commerce council, just like Government, sometimes makes great sounding statements, but they are just that, loud empty statements with photos ops in high profile places, lacking meaningful action.’
His email continued, ‘The Chamber of Commerce Council year after year sends very conflicting messages with the high profile involvement in Earth Week, while at the same time not becoming involved in fundamental environmental destruction issues, such as advocating and working for a strong enforceable environmental law.
‘The Chamber of Commerce is very aware that there are issues surrounding the worldwide captive dolphin abusement industry… [but it] has refused to examine the facts and… is now, in effect, endorsing this abusive industry in Cayman Islands…’
Former Chamber President Sophia Harris in an emailed response to Mr. Adam’s email, stated that she supports his position although she has a great deal of respect for the people behind the business at Dolphin Discovery and wishes everyone the best in their business endeavours.
‘I fully understand the Chamber’s need to support and promote business members, but I do agree that the Chamber should remember their overall proclaimed commitments to the community and the environment in order to ensure that other business sectors as well as the community will not be harmed long term by practices – not just specific to this business – that might prove detrimental to us.
‘After all, it was the Chamber’s own voluntary commitment and undertaking which was commendable and one I hope they have the fortitude to live up to.’
Mr. Adam complained that high-level politicians and senior civil servants have done nothing about the dolphin facilities being in business without an operating licence.
Neither Governor Stuart Jack, the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth Office nor the Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford responded to questions previously posed by Cayman Free Press on how businesses are in operation without required permits.
Mr. Adam did admit that if Dolphin Discovery applies for an operating licence they can’t get one because the regulations are not drawn up. ‘But that still is no excuse. The law is broken. That doesn’t change the fact that they don’t possess a licence.’
He said Cayman needs a better governance system which respects the ‘Rule of Law’.