Thursday, November 09, 2006

Activists fight against dolphins in captivity!

Anti-captive dolphin campaigners are hoping that their presentations at the recent Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Conference and Trade Show will send a strong message to the cruise industry.

The ‘Keep Dolphins Free’ in the Cayman Islands used its booth during the 31 October to 3 November event in Grand Cayman to whip up support for its stance against dolphinariums in this country.

Two dolphinariums are currently under construction in West Bay in Grand Cayman despite calls to Government by the local environmental group to rescind their licences.

The Keep Dolphins Free group said that dolphin facilities have created environmental hazards throughout the world and have caused many dolphins to die in captivity.

At a press conference at the Ritz-Carlton last week, Billy Adam of the Keep Dolphins Free movement told reporters why his organisation chose to target the cruise industry at that forum.
“The cruise industry throughout the Caribbean and the Cayman Islands supply about 85 percent of the customers for those destinations that have captive dolphin facilities,” he said.

“If we want to talk to them we need to go to the turf where they are and this is the FCCA show. We’re here to educate, to show sources of information where they can go and learn about the captivity of marine mammals.”

With its trade show theme “Break the chains, keep dolphins free,” the movement was hoping that the 1,200 delegates would take onboard their serious concerns for dolphins and the environment.
“Cruise people that we’ve spoken to, they’re beginning to also realise that they individually and collectively as the FCCA need to take a look at the subject,” he said.

He added that some cruise lines who did studies on captive dolphin facilities have subsequently abandoned the selling of tours.

Mr Adam said that Caribbean and Mediterranean countries needed to examine the various trans-national treaties and conventions, which deals with environmental and animal issues.

One of the groups supporting the Keep Dolphins Free movement and appearing at the 31 October press conference was the Cayman Islands Humane Society which was represented by Giuseppe Gatta and Sheila Aronfeld.

Mr Gatta pledged support to the anti-captive dolphin campaign and called for the humane treatment of animals in the Islands.

“It’s our opinion that keeping a free spirit and free living dolphin in captivity is inhumane and immoral,” he said.

“Dolphins should be allowed to live freely and in peace without fear of capture and life threatening imprisonment.”

In a written statement read by Mr Gatta, the local Human Society stated that it respected the need for Cayman to seek alternative tourist attractions but not the imprisonment of the mammals.
“It’s our opinion that an alternative, viable attraction should focus on saving our natural habitat and not on a show-and-tell for an imprisoned creature as beautiful and wonderful as a dolphin,” Mr Gatta said.

Martha Watkins Gilkes, of Antigua and Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corporation, said that Antigua and Barbuda was forced to shut down a similar facility after environmental damage.

The panelist said that her organisation’s concerns were twofold - environment and moral issues involving dolphins in captivity.

“There’s a lot of moral issues in keeping dolphins in captivity and taking them from quality of life,” she said.

Ms Gilkes said that her independent body had been greatly concerned about the multiplier effects that the project had on Antigua and Barbuda.

“It served to benefit only a few while the majority would bear the burden of environmental damage and negative publicity,” she said.

Also joining the press conference last week to back the Keep Dolphins Free movement was Christine O’Sullivan of Jamaica Environment Trust (JET).

The official explained that her non-government organisation was dedicated to environmental education and advocacy.

Ms O’Sullivan said that JET was concerned about the increase in number of captive dolphin facilities in the region.

“Having witnessed the problems associated with captive dolphin facilities, JET is opposed to the establishment of additional facilities throughout the Caribbean,” she said.

In Jamaica, eight dolphins died since 2001 including two calves while others failed to live just months after being imported, according to Ms O’Sullivan.

At present there are two dolphinariums in Jamaica - Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"