APPROACHES are being made to the government to reject a proposal for the establishment of a dolphin facility on the island as a tourist attraction.
Margaux Dodds, Director of Marine Connection, who claims to be speaking on behalf of 24 animal welfare and conservation organizations worldwide has sent a letter to Prime Minister Allen Chastanet expressing concern over the proposal to build a captive dolphin facility at Pigeon Island.
Dodds told the Prime Minister that 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 behaviours are restricted.
She said: “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”.
According to Dodds , 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.
She said 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”, Dodds wrote.
She also drew Prime Minister Chastanet’s attention to a major controversy that surrounded the closure of a Dolphin Discovery facility in Antigua in 2004. Dodds said 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.