A well known Saint Lucian family has written an open letter to Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, urging him to put a stop a proposed dolphin facility at Pigeon Island.
The proposal reportedly includes the construction of a restaurant, gift shop, and swimming pool on Pigeon Island.
The Devaux family said in the open letter that such commercial activity will do nothing to enhance the natural beauty or historic charm of the park.
“Pigeon Island National Landmark is part of Robert J. Devaux’s legacy and part of this nation’s heritage. As a National Landmark, it must be preserved and protected,” the letter declared.
It noted that what Robert Devaux envisioned for Pigeon Island was a green space steeped in history to be enjoyed by his children and their children and all Saint Lucians for generations to come.
“This became a reality on 23 February 1979, when two years of hard work by Robert and his team culminated in the official opening of St. Lucia’s first national park. Most St. Lucians then didn’t know what a national park was. Most St. Lucians now don’t remember a time when Pigeon Island National Park didn’t exist,” the letter said.
It noted that as Founding Director of the Saint Lucia National Trust, Robert Devaux worked for all Saint Lucians of past, present, and future generations: young and old, educated and uneducated, enlightened and yet to be enlightened.
It noted that Devaux tried to protect local history, culture, and natural resources from short-sighted exploitation because he believed that preserving Saint Lucia’s heritage is vital to long-term survival as a cohesive nation and a tourism destination.
According to the letter, Prime Minister Chastanet’s vision for St. Lucia is different.
“We respect that. You envisage beautifying Castries, developing what’s left of Pigeon Island causeway, expanding Rodney Bay Village, and rebuilding Hewanorra Airport: all worthwhile projects in areas where your ideas can be transformative. But the few remaining unspoiled pockets of natural beauty designated as National Landmarks or protected areas must be preserved intact,” it stated.
The letter said to continue to compete as a tour destination, Saint Lucia has to set itself apart by offering something that no other destination has.
It observed that a dolphin facility does not distinguish this country as Dolphin Discovery alone has at least 20 facilities around the Caribbean basin.
“The only thing we have that makes us unique is our heritage: our natural heritage of mountains, beaches, and landmarks; and our cultural heritage of history, customs, and people. Without that heritage to differentiate us, visitors would have no reason to choose Saint Lucia over any other island,” the letter to Chastanet asserted.
It explained that Pigeon Island, with its scenic beauty and rich history and archaeology, is an iconic symbol of Saint Lucia’s heritage and is too important to this country’s identity to be compromised.
In addition, the letter noted that keeping dolphins in captivity is inhumane.
“Worldwide public opinion has turned against tours that feature captive wild animals. Leading tour companies like TripAdvisor and Virgin Holidays have pledged to stop selling this type of tour as a result of pressure from animal advocacy groups,” the letter stated, adding that the negative publicity surrounding the proposed facility at Pigeon Island will not be good for St. Lucia’s image.
The Devaux family said they are aware that job creation is of paramount importance.
But the family explained that the Saint Lucia National Trust has projects lined up that, if approved, would create at least as many jobs as the dolphin project.
“Additionally, there are entrepreneurial Saint Lucians with ideas for tourism-related products who, if given the same concessions and rubber stamping that foreign investors enjoy, could start businesses that create a lot more than the 22 to 28 permanent jobs promised by the dolphin facility,” the letter noted.
The family has launched an online petition against the proposed dolphin facility.
The petition, which aims to gather 10,000 supporters, had attracted some 7,000 as of Thursday afternoon, February 23, 2017.