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Local and International Environmental Groups Condemn Dolphin Facilities
By Sam Duncombe, reEarth
May 30, 2013 - 6:10:21 PM

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Nassau, Bahamas – Local and international environmental organizations have joined forces to express their complete and utter objection to the proposed marine mammal facility at Blackbeards Cay and East end of Grand Bahama today. This comes on the back of a 24year battle with government to close the doors to dolphinarium facilities in The Bahamas. Citing ethical and inhumane reasons they called for a complete ban on any future marine mammal facilities in the Bahamas and called on The Bahamas Government, in a10 page letter, to shut the door on this archaic form of entertainment.

This letter is supported by 40 NGO groups: reEarth, Bahamas Humane Society, BREEF, EARTHCARE, Grand Bahama Humane Society, Young Marine Explorers, Save Guana Cay, One Eleuthera, Andros Conservancy and Trust, as well as international organizations; Dolphin Project, Cetacean Society International, NY Whale and Dolphin Action League, Earth Island Institute, Zoocheck Canada, California Gray Whale Coalition, Elsa Nature Conservancy, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (International), No Whales in Captivity, Orca Conservancy, OrcaNetwork, Marine Connection, Enlightened Animals, Captive Dolphin Awareness Foundation,Grupo de Los Cien, Animal Fund, Marine Animal Rescue, Foundation for Adoption Sponsorship and Defense of Animals, ABITPC Antigua, Marine Mammal Connection Society, Dauphins Libres,Animal Welfare Institute, Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali, Blue Voice, Orca Lab/Pacific Orca Society, Australians for Animals, Born Free Foundation, Animal Balance, Fins and Flukes. 

With a growing market in ‘environmental tourism’ that is based upon sustainable practices,consumers are no longer swallowing the ‘usual’ exploitation of animals for entertainment sake.Studies have shown that tourists are looking for ‘feel good’ experiences that allow them to connect with nature in its natural form. In fact a 2007 study conducted by Susanna Curtin and Keith Wilkes highlighted the post experience dissonance in dolphin show participants and their feeling that the ‘show’ was based upon fake behaviours motivated by feeding opportunities that were not indicative of the behavior of the animals in the wild. 

Research has shown how the natural behaviours of dolphins in the wild atrophy in captive facilities. Sonar abilities, natural feeding and mating behaviours are seriously affected and there is speculation over the affect that captivity has on a dolphin’s complex communication skills.Carnival Cruise lines in the United Kingdom have already closed their doors to excursions offering interaction with dolphins in captive settings stating:

 “...in order to maintain its commitment to the environment Carnival UK has elected not to operate tours which involve interaction with captive dolphins” (Carnival UK Sustainability Report2010).

 With so much of the Blackbeards Cay venture banking on Carnival Cruise Line customers, we have to wonder how sustainable this model of revenue is? With dissention already visible in the Carnival group on captive dolphin facilities, is it wise of The Bahamas to allow a fourth facility based upon their support into the future? 

Whilst other countries are moving towards a more enlightened treatment of animals, The Bahamas appears to be stuck in the past. Costa Rica, Australia, Hungary, Chile, and India, have all completely banned dolphinariums from their shores. In a landmark move just recently, Indiaan nounced its decision to ban dolphinariums under the premise that dolphins should be treated as “non-human persons”: 

“Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that their unusually high intelligence, as compared to other animals, means that dolphin should be seen as “non-human persons” and as such should have their own specific rights and [that it] is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purposes.Whereas cetaceans in general do not survive well in captivity, [and] confinement in captivity can seriously compromise the welfare and survival of all types of cetaceans by altering their behaviour and causing extreme distress.”

(Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests. http://www.wdcs.org/stop/ captivity/ )

Another 15 countries have prevented the industry from flourishing by passing legislation to ban the importation of dolphins into their country, or severely prohibited the public display of such.In 1995 Prime Minister The Honourable Hubert Ingraham promised the Bahamian people that there would be no further captures, or exports. Subsequent to this promise the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed in 2005. While this was a baby step in the right direction the legislation and regulations remain disappointing and do little to protect dolphins from ill treatment or safeguard the species in its biologically wild state going forwards. 

The ludicrous notion that a 65,000 gallon tank that is 9 feet in depth (as specified in the Marine Mammal Regulations) would provide four dolphins with a satisfactory home, given that they would normally swim 40 – 50 miles per day and dive to depths of 30 feet, is inhumane. They would have to swim around this area 2000 times to replicate their normal travel distances in the wild. 

Despite a dolphins physical appearance to be ‘smiling’ and the general perception of these animals as ‘happy’ in their captive environment performing shows, it is important to consider the fact that they are fed only during these shows and therefore are forced into submission by their owners – these showtime behaviours are not natural to them and they are unable to perform their natural behaviours as they would in the wild. 

According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society “Confined in an unnatural environment,these wide-ranging, social animals are forced to live a life of severe deprivation, suffering lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than in the wild”.http://www.wdcs.org/stop/captivity/ 

In 2005, reEarth pressed for public access, and transparency, regarding the annual reviews of dolphinarium facilities, and the medical records of animals kept in their care and these requests were denied. Still, we only hear the glossy press releases about the birth of a new captive dolphin, but never the death records, injury statistics to tourists or dolphins or illnesses. We demand to know the truths, and we demand to have access to our public documentation in a proper, accountable and completely transparent way. 

The group has already secured over 1450 signatures in just 7 days in an online petition opposing the dolphinarium and intends to present to Government in support of this objection in due course. 

We invite all members of the public to view and sign the petition here:

http://www.thepetitionsite. com/703/523/691/oppose-new- dolphin-swim-facilities-in- the-bahamas/

Or follow this campaign at the following address: https://www.facebook.com/ pages/Bahamas-Freedom- Alliance/421778071253270?fref= ts

We call on the Bahamas government to stop the Blackbeard Cay facility and to amend the Marine Mammal protection act to:

  • • immediately work under professional consultation to develop legislation that would regulate the ‘observation industry’
  • • prohibits the opening of any additional marine mammal facility in The Bahamas
  • • prohibits, in totality, any live marine mammal captures in our waters
  • • prohibits all marine mammal facility breeding programs going forward
  • • prohibits any future imports or exports of marine mammals to The Bahamas
  • • looks to a tiered closure of all marine mammal facilities in The Bahamas with a plan to
  • house retired dolphins in a sanctuary funded by the very industry that has benefitted from their captivity for decades

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