Press Release:-Three environmental groups in Antigua & Barbuda are sending congratulations to the St Lucia National Trust for its unanimous stand against the development of a captive dolphin facility in St Lucia.
The Antiguan environmental groups recently spoke out (both in printed media and through several radio broadcasts) in opposition to dolphin captivity, in light of recent developments in St. Lucia, where Dolphin Discovery, the Mexican swim-with-dolphin (SWD) attraction, is seeking for the second time to build a new dolphin facility on the historic site and national park of Pigeon Island.
The Antigua Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corp. (ABITPC), The Antigua Conservation Society, and the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) have come together to share their common concerns on the issue, as they feel that SWD attractions give countries a negative image, hurt tourism based economies and also create many environmental problems.
There had also been a major outcry in Antigua when a capture license was issued to the original owner of the Antigua Dolphin facility, Dolphin Fantasies, to “capture annually 12 wild dolphins from the territorial waters around Antigua and Barbuda.” This led to the environmental group ABITPC taking legal action, with the capture license eventually being rescinded by the Government of Antigua. The same capture request had been submitted to the Government of St. Lucia in 2003, but was never granted. The Mexican company, Dolphin Discovery purchased Dolphin fantasies soon after.
The same company, Dolphin Discovery, fled Antigua in 2004 after major controversy over a SWD program. The project caused major environmental problems on Antigua and also lead to international negative press, nearly leading to a boycott of the island.
In 2002 there was a previous attempt to open a dolphin pen in St. Lucia, but plans were halted. Coverage by a number of international publications brought much negative publicity to St. Lucia.
Perhaps the most damaging story was the UK Sunday Times when they printed a story entitled “Murder riddle of a dolphin lover.”
This article referred to the murder of Jane Tipson, who was leading the campaign against the proposed St Lucia dolphin facility. There was speculation that Tipson, 53, had put herself at risk with her efforts to stop St. Lucia from establishing SWD programs. However, her murder was never solved.
Due to the negative publicity, the project never took off, but now Dolphin Discovery has resurfaced in St. Lucia with a new plan in the last few months. Again this has caused major public outcry and The St Lucian National Trust (SLNT) is in the forefront of the issue.
Public Relations officer of ABITPC Martha Watkins Gilkes stated, “I am delighted to hear from the Director of the St. Lucia National Trust, Bishu Tulsie, that a successful National Trust meeting was held on March 11th and the vote was unanimous against the project proposal.”
The Antiguan environmental groups are optimistic that not only will Antigua remain “dolphin free” with no captive facilities, but that a law could be passed to prevent any captive dolphins on the island in the future.
Under the past government of Antigua & Barbuda, a law was proposed to prohibit the display of captive dolphins, which would be a major step forward in framing Antigua as a country protective of its environment.
The bill was presented to the Cabinet several times and was very close to being passed into law when a change of government took place in 2014 just before the bill was finalized.
There is presently a move underway to revive the bill and it is hoped that in the near future Antigua & Barbuda will join progressive countries protecting their marine environment by banning captive dolphin display.