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(PRESS RELEASE) – One of the recurring messages that came out of the Saint Lucia National Trust’s (SLNT) viewing and panel discussion on ‘Dolphin Dilemma: The Antigua and Barbuda Story’ on September 5th was the need (for everyone not just the SLNT) to do more research, get the facts and share the information widely on the impacts the proposed dolphinarium would have on Saint Lucia.
In this regard we encourage the public to review, absorb and share a comprehensive document entitled ‘Report on Captive Dolphins in Mexico 2016’ authored by Lilly Charlton of Dolphin Freedom (the entire report can be accessed at http://www.dolphinfreedom.net/report-on-captive-dolphins-in-mexico-2016/).
One of the chapters covers issues of human safety, risks to members of staff and diseases persons who come in contact with swim-with-dolphins facilities might be exposed to. “Studies show that disease and illness can be passed onto humans from marine mammals. Diseases and illnesses can be difficult to treat and [symptoms] may be overlooked if health practitioners are not familiar with the problem.
Health risks also pose a problem to staff and members of the public in the form of skin rashes and other ailments contracted by being in such close proximity to dolphins and also from being in enclosed tanks where dolphins are regularly urinating and defecating. One review on TripAdvisor, regarding a Delphin facility located in the hotel Dreams, read: “Very dirty water/my girls got a rash – “We took my girls to the dreams hotel on Sept. 3, 2013. When they both went into the water and stood on the steps the water stung their skin. They both said it felt like the water was burning their skin. When we got home both of my girls had a rash like chicken pox. It is a bacterial infection”.” (See Chapter on Human Health pages 57-59 of Dolphin Freedom’s report).
Another section of the report looks at ‘Misinformation’ (pages 60-63): “Not one company sent us a current inventory, birth certificates, death certificates or information on pregnant dolphins. What we found concurrent with our investigation into dolphinaria was persistent misinformation being delivered to the public and a broad lack of transparency. We asked the same questions to different members of staff at different dolphinaria in different companies and received the same misinformation.
From this, we can only deduce that this giving of misinformation is deliberate and not just a one off mistake from a worker. The deliberate misinforming of the public is systemic.
An ex-worker informed us that staff are given a script for what they should tell people. This implies that the misinforming of customers is a decision coming from the management of the companies, and not ignorance from staff.
The most common piece of misinformation being routinely delivered to the public is about the origins of the dolphins confined. Staff consistently inform members of the public that as many as “75% of dolphins [at a facility] are captive-born”.”
The issue of wild dolphins being captured for these facilities was raised during the panel discussion. One of the panelists, Martha Watkins-Gilkes – Diver, Marine Activist and the Executive Producer of Dolphin Dilemma: The Antigua and Barbuda Story, said permission was given to capture 12 wild dolphins annually from Antigua and Barbuda’s waters. Fortunately, she said they got an injunction which stopped the process before it began. If this is allowed in Saint Lucia the impact on dolphins in the wild as well as on local tour operators of dolphins excursions will have to be measured.
The Trust reminds the public that whilst we understand and support the need for development we call on the authorities to ensure that it is done in a balanced manner with consideration given to the impact on human health, existing livelihoods and our natural, cultural and built heritage. We can ill-afford scathing reviews from locals and visitors who utilize our beaches along the proposed location at Pigeon Island. Additionally, since Saint Lucia is heavily dependent on tourism it is incumbent on the authorities to ensure that our beaches are safeguarded for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike and are not further deteriorated for the gain of a few.