Cayman Islanders protest dolphinariums, 2006-08

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
Start is somewhat ambiguous; CITA had released statements opposing dolphinariums in 2002 and 2004 as well. However, it does not appear that those statements were part of a coherent campaign yet.
March
2006
to
September
2008
Location and Goals
Country: 
Cayman Islands
Goals: 
To prevent the operation of captive dolphin facilities on the Cayman Islands.
 

In early March of 2006, two proposed captive dolphin facilities received government authorization to begin planning their parks. The two facilities, Dolphin Cove and Dolphin Discovery, still needed to fulfill various requirements to open for business; the government permission only extended through the building stage of the project. One condition for eventual business was a statement from the Department of Environment that the facilities would not cause serious or irreversible environmental damage, and that the facilities would have controls in place to ensure as much.

In mid-March, the Cayman Islands Tourism Authority (CITA) expressed its opposition to any dolphin facility in a position paper, urging the government to act against such a facility. They cited fear that tourists would boycott the Islands, fear that dolphin excrement would hurt the marine environment, and fear of the questionable ethics behind capturing dolphins.

A daily newspaper on the island had an online poll, drawing over 3000 responses, which found 92% of participants opposed to the construction of the facilities.

Advocates for the facilities cited a need for more tourist attractions on the Islands.

In late July and early August, the organization Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands, under the leadership of Billy Adam, brought together three well-known figures in the diving industry in opposition to the dolphinarium. The three leaders, Women Divers Hall of Fame president Martha Watkins Gilkes, underwater film producer and photographer Stan Waterman, and underwater photographer Cathy Church, voiced their opposition to the facilities and threatened that the international dive community might threaten the islands if the facilities went through with construction. Gilkes added that many websites were already calling for a boycott of the islands.

In late August, Tourism and Environment Minister Charles Clifford said that he believed the facilities would cause no negative environmental impact. He expressed a belief that the facilities’ systems and regulations would keep the environment safe. However, environmentalists, including Cathy Church, remained unhappy with the proposal, saying that it was still wrong to keep dolphins in captivity, citing the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame standards.

On October 27, the Cayman government, under a new administration, declared that they would no longer grant permission for the construction of any new dolphinariums. However, Dolphin Cove and Dolphin Discovery retained their permits, and continued their plan for future construction. Charles Clifford said that those two facilities would still need to follow environmental regulations. Furthermore, the new law mandated a consolidation of previous dolphinarium legislation, and enacted a policy mandating that, should the government ever remove the dolphinarium moratorium, the new dolphinariums operate with a closed-loop system, so that none of the water from the facility would enter the sea, and that only dolphins born in captivity could be in the facility. The regulations did not stop at future dolphinariums. Clifford also declared that, if necessary, Dolphin Cove and Dolphin Discovery might also have to set up a closed-loop system.

Billy Adam expressed disappointment with the new policy, saying it was full of gaps and unproven statements. He cited a lack of real laws, regulations, and studies.

In 2007, as it had three other times over the course of the decade, CITA made a public statement against dolphin facilities, citing cruelty to dolphins and damage to the Cayman Islands’ international reputation as arguments against the facilities.

The two dolphinariums were set to open in November of 2008. On September 5, CITA called on the Minister of Tourism to ban all future dolphin imports, effectively preventing the dolphinariums from opening. In a position paper, CITA spoke of the business damage that dolphinariums would cause and the damage to wild dolphin populations. The paper said that imports would harm international reputation, and cited dolphin facilities that had been closing around the world in response to public opposition, as well as countries that have banned the dolphin trade, for the same reason. The paper also cited various polls on CITA members’ positions, finding about three-quarters opposed to dolphin facilities.

The dolphinariums nevertheless imported dolphins as planned, starting in December. The dates of arrival were not a matter of public record, nor did anyone notify the press, so there was hardly any protest at the time of the actual arrival. Over the next several months, the facilities brought more dolphins in to the country, and opened the dolphinariums for business.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Came during a wave of international dolphin advocacy, with many countries banning dolphinariums or dolphin trading (1,2).

Sources: 
“Group protest against dolphin's captivity!” 18 March 2006. <http://facts-about-dolphins.blogspot.com/2006/03/group-protest-against-dolphins.html>

“Dolphin captivity boycott forewarned. Cayman” <http://tursiops.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2781>

McGowan, Cliodhna. “Tourism Minister: Cayman's Environment Won't Be Impacted by Captive Dolphin Facilities.” 31 August 2006. <http://www.underwatertimes.com/print.php?article_id=69182010457>

“Too little too late for the Cayman Islands.” <http://www.marineconnection.org/archives/general/caymanislandpolicy.htm>

“Cayman Islands not to issue any more licences for captive dolphin facilities.” The Times & Transcript. 11 November 2006.

“CITA wants dolphin ban- Cayman islands.” Cetacea. 13 September 2008. <http://planktonforums.org/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=7089&start=0>

“CITA calls for dolphin ban.” Cayman News Service. 7 September 2008. <http://www.caymannewsservice.com/local-news/2008/09/07/cita-calls-dolphin-ban>

“Calls For The Cayman Islands To Ban Dolphin Imports.” 16 September 2008. <http://www.wdcs.org/news.php?select=178>

McGowan, Cliodhna. “2nd dolphin park gets OK.” Caymanian Compass. 2 March 2006. <http://www.caycompass.com/cgi-bin/CFPnews.cgi?ID=1011427>

“Captive Dolphins Arrive.” 5 December 2008. Cayman News Service <http://www.caymannewsservice.com/headline-news/2008/12/05/captive-dolphins-arrive>

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Alison Roseberry-Polier, 28/03/2011