Thursday, March 02, 2006

Is it right to have dolphins in parks?

AN official position from the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) on captive dolphins in the Cayman Islands is expected shortly.

Last week, CITA conducted a survey of its 190-member organisation and asked them: “Do you or do you not think there should be captive dolphin parks in the Cayman Islands?”

The findings from the member only survey will be discussed with members before CITA states its official position on the controversial issue to Government and the public.

“The results from the survey will be used to formulate the official CITA position, which will be communicated to government and the media.

“Whether you are for them, against them or do not have a position, please take one minute to complete the survey,” CITA said in an email soliciting opinions.

Executive Director of CITA, Ken Thompson, said a discussion paper was circulated amongst members and the developers of the dolphin park, but no comment came from the latter.
According to Mr Thompson, the online survey, which ran from 23 to 24 February, will gauge the opinions of a varied membership.

“We’re keeping an open mind because we have a wide variety of members,” he said. “We won’t let one section of the organisation dominate, we want to represent a wide cross section.”

Controversy began last March when Dolphin Discovery Cayman Ltd was granted a license to import eight dolphins by the Department of Agriculture for a new Dolphinarium in West Bay.

Business partners, Gene Thompson and Dale Crighton, have been defending their dolphin tourist attraction, which is under attack from the Keep Dolphins Free group in Cayman.

Spokesman for Keep Dolphins Free, Billy Adam, said its campaign is based on “raising community awareness on the environmental and humanitarian issues of dolphins in captivity.”

Mr Adam said catching dolphins in the wild is often brutal and statistics have shown that dolphins have shorter life spans in captivity.

In defending his multi-million dollar facility, Gene Thompson said all health and safety conditions would be met before the arrival of the bottlenose dolphins.

“There are numerous conditions to be met including the facilities, storage and food. All these conditions have to be met before the final importation,” he said.

He added that the swim-with-dolphin programme would offer a phenomenal experience for both visitors and locals when the dolphinarium is opened in the summer.

He explained that a first-class attraction and lagoon next to the Turtle Farm would be built to the highest standards in the US and other parts of the world.

That argument has not won over the Free Dolphin activists who are worried that dolphin waste may cause health problems for swimmers and damage to coral reefs.

CITA is in the meantime not taking sides, saying it will await the vote of its members and Government’s undeclared position on the issue.

Although it’s legal to import the dolphins, the Government said in the past it would review the matter.

Gene Thompson said Dolphin Discovery Cayman would meet the specific conditions to satisfy its licence.

The Keep Dolphins Free organisation, according to Mr Adam, would continue to campaign against dolphin entertainment facilities.

The future plans of Dolphin Discovery Cayman are to deepen and increase the size of the lagoon to allow for 20 dolphins.

“Dolphins are magnificent creatures, not rides in an amusement park as Dolphin Discovery would make them out to be,” said Mr Adam.

CITA’s position will be made public in the coming days, said Mr Ken Thompson.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"