Press Release: On behalf of Marine Connection and the undersigned animal welfare and conservation organizations, the scientific community, and concerned individuals worldwide, expressing our concern over the proposal to build a captive dolphin facility on St Lucia. The planned location of Pigeon Island, a recognized National Park and Landmark, is enjoyed by residents and tourists alike and we are appealing to the Government of St Lucia to deny the application for the establishment of any captive dolphin facility on the island.
Whales and dolphins (also known as cetaceans) do not fare well in captivity: they are forced to live in an artificial environment, perform for food, and their natural behaviors are restricted. They are unable to travel the long distances to which they are adapted and are often forced to socialize with other captive cetaceans they might not choose in the wild; Individual autonomy and choice are removed from these intelligent and socially complex mammals when they are in captivity, especially when they must interact with paying customers. Living in captivity results in stress-related diseases and a shortened lifespan.
An increasing number of countries around the world oppose the capture and confinement of cetaceans in captivity, believing it antithetical to the protection and appreciation of wildlife and the marine environment. Chile, Costa Rica and Croatia all have banned the keeping of cetaceans in captivity and in 2013, India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests banned the keeping of captive dolphins for public entertainment. In 2016, a law was passed by the State of California in the USA, making it illegal to breed orcas in captivity. The UK has no captive cetaceans, the last dolphinarium having closed in 1993. We hope that St Lucia will look to them as examples. We believe that a captive dolphin attraction on your island would damage its reputation as a tourism destination and also cause irrevocable damage to the natural heritage of St Lucia.
We also would like to make you aware of a major controversy that surrounded the closure of a Dolphin Discovery facility in Antigua in 2004. The government of Antigua was forced to take action, due to a number of negative issues related to the operation of the facility, which led to its closure. The government later denied a request by the same company to return to Antigua. Some of the problems that arose during Dolphin Discovery’s tenure on Antigua can be found on the following websites; if you wish more details, we will be happy to provide them.
We therefore urge you to consider the following as you assess the proposal to build a captive dolphin facility on Pigeon Island:
1. Environmental Impacts
St Lucia is home to 20 marine protected areas, including the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA). The SMMA has five zone types and is an International Coral Reef Action Network demonstration site. A total of 90 km2 of reef is found around St Lucia, comprising narrow fringing reefs lying close to shore and a small number of patch reefs. The reefs are particularly extensive off the south and east coasts, but the west coast hosts spectacular reef communities that grow as veneers on volcanic rock. These areas are especially important for local fishermen and tourism, with marine activities including snorkeling, SCUBA diving, sport-fishing, fly-fishing and boating all popular with visitors to the island. St Lucia’s coral reefs are vital to its marine ecosystem and the industries that rely on it. Scientific research has been undertaken on the impact captive dolphin facilities can have on surrounding coral reefs. Dolphin waste can concentrate in areas surrounding sea pens, causing the proliferation of algae that can cover, and kill, live coral. Placing a commercial dolphin sea pen in important and complex natural marine habitat that has been set aside for protection is inconsistent with conservation principles. This link provides video evidence of the above concerns.
2. Economic Damage
A commercial captive dolphin attraction would be a competitor for existing tourism operators on St Lucia, and would require the importation of dolphinarium personnel, meaning fewer jobs would be created for locals than might be assumed. This competition could seriously affect local tourism companies, from direct loss of revenue to potential dilution of foreign investment.
3. St Lucia’s International Image
With such strong global sentiments against keeping cetaceans in captivity, the image of St Lucia could be irrevocably damaged through the negative publicity generated in opposition to such an inauthentic attraction. Building it in a national park that holds great cultural and ecological significance would be an additional black mark against it. As an example, one previous attempt to establish such a facility on Antigua met with very strong international opposition and negative publicity through local opposition and exposure in the media.
4. Welfare Impacts of Keeping Cetaceans in Captivity
As outlined in paragraph 2 of this letter, cetaceans do not fare well in captivity. No captive facility can hope to accommodate or address the needs of these highly social mammals. Breeding rates in captivity are not sufficient to sustain demand, and captures from the wild to supply facilities continue in various ‘hot spots’ globally. This ongoing demand presents a threat to the future survival not only of the individuals taken for display, but also of the wild populations from which they are taken. Captures often utilize inhumane methods and no effort is made to ascertain the impacts on individuals rounded up but not chosen, released to an uncertain fate.
We hope that you will consider our concerns and the findings presented to you. Colleagues based in the Caribbean would be pleased to meet with you on behalf of the undersigned to discuss any questions you may have and provide further details.
On behalf of the following organizations
Animals Asia Foundation (Hong Kong)
Animal Heroes (Mexico)
Animal Rights Hawai’i (USA)
Animal Welfare Institute (USA)
Antigua & Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corporation (ABITPC) (Antigua)
Australia for Dolphins (Australia)
Born Free Foundation (UK)
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (UK)
Cetacean Society International (USA)
Delfines en Libertad (Mexico)
Dolphin Project (USA)
Earth Island Institute (USA)
Free Morgan Foundation (Germany/New Zealand)
Humane Society International
International Animal Rescue (UK)
One Voice (France)
Orca Aware (UK)
Orca Network (USA)
Whale and Dolphin Conservation