CITA calls for dolphin ban

| 08/09/2008

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) has submitted a position paper to government asking for an immediate ban on all dolphin imports. Literally weeks before two dolphinariums plan to open their doors, CITA has implored the Tourism Minister to put a stop to what they say will ruin Cayman’s tourism industry.

The paper was presented to Charles Clifford, Minister for Tourism and the Environment, on Friday, 5 September, and CITA says it will be following up with the minister in the hope of seeing some response to its request.  CITA has made the case on numerous occasions that the capture, import, export or keeping in captivity of all cetacean species should be banned in the Cayman Islands. The Association, which is made up a diverse cross-section of businesses and stakeholders from the sector, said that it has strongly opposed captive dolphin facilities long before the two dolphinariums were developed.

“Polls to verify our members’ position on this matter have been conducted several times, with the results showing a vast majority (74%) stating no to captive dolphin facilities,” it said. “Once again, we beseech the Cayman Islands Government to seriously consider the implementation of a ban on the future import of cetaceans, as other nations have done, to protect these marine mammals, the environment, the reputation of the Cayman Islands, our large water-associated tourism product and the culture and heritage of these islands.”

In October 2006, the government placed a moratorium on any new captive dolphin facilities, but not before two facilities had already been granted import permits for Bottlenose Dolphins. Dolphin Discovery (a franchise operation with headquarters in Mexico, locally represented by Gene Thompson and Dale Crighton), at the old Cayman Turtle Farm site in West Bay, was given a permit in 2004 to import eight Bottlenose Dolphins. Dolphin Cove Cayman (to be operated by Kent Eldemire), which is associated with Dolphin Cove Jamaica, located by Morgan’s Harbour in West Bay, was given a permit to import 12 Bottlenose Dolphins.

CITA said that the government had taken the first step by declaring a moratorium and urged it to take the next step by imposing a ban on future importations. “As the Cayman Islands makes bold and hard-earned moves to create and stimulate eco-tourism, nature tourism, Green Globe certifications for many properties and potentially the Sister Islands in total, and sustainable tourism programs including the protection of the environment, the importation and captivity of any future dolphins to the Cayman Islands will undermine these efforts substantially and directly contradict these efforts,” it said.

CITA has gone on record in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008 strongly opposing these captive dolphin facilities and says not only is it cruel and harmful to the dolphins but it will seriously damage the reputation of Cayman and put our marine environment at risk.

“Cayman’s visitors are generally well-educated, above-average household income visitors. We cannot afford to be tarnished with the ongoing support and allowance of contributing to the capture and keeping of more dolphins. We urge the Government of the Cayman Islands to put laws in place to ban any future import, export, taking or keeping of cetaceans, for the good of our reputation, the stakeholders in Tourism and for future generations.”

The association noted that many other countries are imposing bans on taking dolphins from the wild. “The practice of capturing wild dolphins has been well documented over the years and continues to receive negative media attention,” said CITA. “We are all interconnected in the marine environment, and while captures may not be takingplace in Cayman, the effect of us taking other nations’ captured dolphins is just as devastating.”

The association says in its paper that Cayman needs to recognize the detrimental effects that the capture of wild dolphins, and often wholesale slaughter, will have on our reputation in the global community. All capture methods result in some deaths, and the dolphin trade negatively affects wild populations. There is a documented sixfold increase in mortality risk for individual dolphins directly after capture. and captures can remove important individuals, leaving behind a shattered social group, altering reproductive capacity and leaving unweaned young dolphins to die of starvation.

Moreover, even though the ‘Cayman dolphins’ are reportedly coming from captivity, the facilities that these dolphins come from intend to replace them from the wild. Worldwide public opinion is also rapidly moving against such facilities.  “More than a dozen US facilities have closed in the past decade, due to public outcry, boycotts and/or declining revenue as the public becomes more educated,” CITA added.  

Many countries have imposed a ban on the trade in dolphins, including Costa Rica and Mexico, which was among the largest capture and export countries in the world. Here in Cayman there is wide objection to the trade and a number of organisations have spoken out against the facilities. The Marine Conservation Board of the Cayman Islands went on record in 2003 stating that captive dolphin facilities should not be allowed to become established in the Cayman Islands because of what it couldconvey to Cayman’s image as a tourist destination known for its marine resource conservation.

"The MCB is alarmed about the additional stresses caused by the dolphin sewage discharge from captive dolphin facilities into our economically natural marine environment,” the board stated. CITA said it recently spoke with the board (15 August 2008), which confirmed that it stood by its position and remains against captive dolphin facilities in general.

CNS has made several attempts to contact the owners of the dolphinariums that were granted permits to import dolphins, most recently on Friday when Kent Eldemire of Dolphin Cove said he had not and never would have any comment regarding dolphins. CNS has never received any response to its enquiries from Dolphin Discovery.

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  1. Claudette Upton says:

    "The Dolphin Quest/Sea World Study" cited by Anonymous (why are so many people afraid to put their names to their beliefs, I wonder) is hardly objective. Scientists, like politicians, can be bought and persuaded to say whatever is in the interests of their paymasters.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Throwing good money after bad it seems… when the answer should have been a resounding no from the start before any time or expenditure had been wasted… its all sounding a bit helicopterish if you ask me… ill-informed under-researched expensive decisions gone wrong.

    Keeping dolphins in captivity really isnt that popular any more.  In fact, across the world, there’s one heck of a lot of opposition to it.

    … and some interesting reading:


  3. Anonymous says:

    Why now? The CITA has been after this since 2002 and remain vigilant to get Government’s attention, as you can see from their ‘white paper’. The request was to ban future import of more dolphins, even if the existing attractions met the import permit requirements from the DOA, even if the 8 and 12 dolphins were imported and the facilities opened.

    The question is why more dolphins? The ramifications of importing more dolphins in the future needs to be considered. Dolphin Cove in Jamaica has applied forthe export of dolphins held in captivity (some Cuban and some Mexican) to be sent to Cayman and to be replaced by Cuban dolphins. So, by taking Dolphins from Jamaica, Jamaica will be importing more from Cuba, hence continuing the wild capture trade with Cayman contributing to this. We are all interconnected in the marine environment, and while captures may not be taking place in Cayman, the effect of us taking other nations’ captured dolphins is just as devastating.

    And, why will they need to capture more dolphins anyways, according to Dolphin Cove, they breed successfully in captivity. "The ultimate aim, the company asserts, is to establish its own self sufficient breeding programme. Already at Dolphin Cove there is a pregnant female, who is due in about four weeks time. We observed her gliding through her special private pregnancy pool, which she is free to enter and leave through open gates leading into one of the two main lagoons. Her big belly glistens through the water. Neil informs me that breeding in captivity has been highly successful, particularly in the US, which has not imported dolphins for 16 years. Seaworld has a highly successful breeding programme that has grown rapidly in the past 30 years. Yet some anti captive dolphin activists still insist that captive dolphins do not breed in captivity." Cayman Compass/ July 2006 re: Dolphin Cove Jamaica

  4. Chris Randall says:

    It is amusing that your correspondent, ‘Anonymous’, has so many varied and contradictory comments.  Might I propose that your rules for commentators be amended to provide that only one comment per news item be permitted from any one individual. 

  5. Anonymous says:


    Wild animals live daily with many challenges to their survival. Predators, hunger, noise, parasites, and environmental pollution are just a few of the challenges animals in the wild must contend with every day. 

    The U.S. government reports that it “is unaware of any valid scientific research or other information that documents or supports that [shows or] performances…cause additional unnecessary stress for the animals."

    Additionally, a recent scientific study of steroid hormones produced by the adrenal cortex, a common measure of stress in animals, demonstrates that stress is not an issue in marine mammals in in-water interactive programs. This Dolphin Quest/Sea World study was submitted to the U.S. government in September of 2000 and provides clear evidence that the animals are in a healthy environment. 

    The results of behavioral and medical evaluations of animals in public display facilities indicate theanimals breed very successfully, form social groupings, eat well and exhibit the same behaviors they do in the wild. In addition, symptoms commonly referred to as stress indicators, such as ulcers, are more common in wild animals that have been found stranded than in animals in responsible public display facilities.


    C’mon CITA – State the facts – not your opinions!  Stop the untruths!

    • Anonymous says:

      State the facts? If only the facts were available, then they could be stated. Of course wild animals and marine mammals face dangers in the wild, just like humans face human induced dangers in our daily lives. What is the point that you are trying to make? Are you comparing natural occurrences in the wild against human induced occurrences and rationalizing our interference as something like, oh well, they’ll die of old age anyways?

      The point being that humans have a choice, as you so choose to believe or not. With our technology, our shipping capability, our weapons and more, we can choose to leave marine life alone to fend for themselves or we can choose to capture them and sentence them to entertain us. Your choice? What’s your point?



  6. Anonymous says:

    "A good government . . . could consist of a set of inter-related positions exercising coercive power that assures, on behalf of those governed, a worthwhile pattern of good results while avoiding an undesirable pattern of bad circumstances, by making decisions that define expectations, grant power, and verify performance."

    Turtle Farm effluent being dumped into the sea untreated, the failed Matrix contract, a purchased helicopter that has been determined to be unusable for its stated purpose, alleged financial malfeasance by the UCCI, plans to build a permanent berthing facility without the due diligence of an independent environmental impact study are only a few issues facing the Country.  Where is the governance from Cayman’s leaders?  Where is the worthwhile pattern of good results?  And where is the avoidance of an undesired pattern of bad circumstances?   Perhaps, more importantly, where are the voices of the citizens outraged by such governance?

    It is insufficient to permit leaders to finger-point after the fact.  Due diligence likely would have disclosed the helicopter’s shortcomings and the limited ability of Matrix to provide the services sought.  And the book Collapse by Jared Diamond might positively influence decision making regarding ventures that impact the Country’s natural resources.  It is time to hold responsible those elected for their responsiblities to govern in the best interest of the Country.     

    As for any dolphins that émigré here unwillingly, it appears that they too will suffer the effects of poor governance. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    response to comment on Mon, 09/08/2008 – 10:15.

    Your calculations are wacked.

    Using your workings say the other 26% of voters (100%-74%) all voted for dolphins, then using your working:

    26% of 61 voters is 16 (rounded up), then only 16 of the 230 members voted for dolphins that’s only 6%, hardly a majority?


  8. Anonymous says:

    It goes without saying that any type of animal captivity and interaction facility defies the laws of nature, however, the impact on the quality of life of the particular animal may be relative to the  zoological complexity of the species.  Obviously, such impact is intensely greater on a dolphin than, say, an agouti. Notwithstanding the humane considerations, which no human being is ultimately qualified to fully assess or appreciate, there are the other factors which apply in this circumstance: environmental impact and majority public acceptance. Both of these factors have caused and continue to generate valid concern. Of the two facilities, the proposed facility in the North Sound bears the question of what was the thinking of the franchise holders and Government officials who supported and ultimately issued approval!  The proposed facility in the North Sound is sure to cause significant environmental damage to the mangrove ‘nursery’ areas all along the fringe of the North Sound, in due course.  

    I wonder quite honestly if they were thinking anything other than financial gain; further revenues for Government (from a relatively micro perspective – planning approval fees, duties and most certainly,  work permit fees to follow) and of course, the operator is likewise seeking financial benefits. 

    Where do these self-serving interests leave the public concerns? Out in the cold, I am afraid and in the case of these dolphin facilities, the concerns will be ignored, again. Simply because our public service machine has become so dependent on the revenues from such development, driven of course by the short-sightedness of successive Governments since November 1976 in not exploring sources of significant national revenue other than tourism and finance. Additionally, and of greater concern, is the not-unsubstantiated perception that successive Governments (as a collective and not necessarily all individuals involved) since that crucial election, have seen fit to facilitate the desires of special interests in deteriment to the long-term national good.

    The failures indicated above do not allude to simply a lack of common sense, but to an arrogance and dare I say greed and total disregard for the public interest, on the part of both government and some developers. And we call these persons, national and community leaders? That kind of leadership would have been well suited for a pirate ship in the 18th century. No wonder our ‘national holiday’ celebrates same!!

    Unfortunately, until we recognize that, to a large extent, our values, principles, foresight and the resulting direction of our development fell off the track thirtyyears ago and that it will take a complete genuine return to service-above-self commitment on the part of our public officials, we will be continually changing the players and not the game.  In our current political field, I for one, see no one on either side who displays the necessary statesmanship (used here in its most diluted form, for the benefit of doubt) to redirect our focus and return selfless integrity to public service.

    We need to change the game plan, not the players.  Hmmm, I wonder if a boycott of the elections, replaced by a march on election day, might send the message that we are quite fed up with our style of representation and governance. Or are we???



  9. Anonymous says:

    Job creation?

    LOL – I guess grave digging is a sort of job creation… thatis what this is for Cayman’s tourism industry.


  10. Anonymous says:

     It is amazing that CITA has to shrink to the depths of lying and manipulating their poll numbers to try and prove a point that is only shared by a minor few members:

    CITA STATES: “Polls to verify our members’ position on this matter have been conducted several times, with the results showing a vast majority (74%) stating no to captive dolphin facilities,”

    It is common knowledge that only 74% of the members that responded to the poll were against the dolphins – not 74% of the membership.  The truth is that when you look at the real numbers the majority of members of CITA are actually for the dolphins. Only 61 members responded to the poll and 74% of the 61 members who responded were against. There are 230 members of CITA (do the numbers!)

    Cayman News Service should ask for confirmation of the real percentage of CITA members who areagainst the dolphins and stop publishing untrue statistics just for sensational news. 

    This is very sad that such a purported professional association registered in Cayman can lie about their polls and still get away with it and then actually convince someone to publish it without verification.

    CITA members should be up in arms that this outright lying continues as it reflects badly on the entire association and shows a very unprofessional management of its affairs and shows that it is being abused by the few board members who are against it.

    To attempt to shut these facilities down at this late point in time would be the same as giving one of your members permission to operate a dive shop and then telling them they are not allowed to obtain any scuba tanks. I would hate to see the lawsuit from this one if CITA is successful.

    Get real people!

    • Ron Moser says:

      I recall an initial "street" opinion poll when all this was in the proposal stage, where the numbers were, however unverified but published all the same in the Compass, was 94% against the development(s). The real point is that this has nothing to do with numbers, you are dealing with very real live mammals and as silly as this may sound to some, with real moms and dads and kids. For those un-initiated individuals on Dolphins in this case, Google it and read all about the truths of Dolpins, of any kind!

  11. Anonymous says:

    These two obsolete enterprises are doomed to failure anyway.  They’ve missed the window of opportunity that existed before the extensive international publicity on the dismal outcomes of other dolphinarium attempts in Mexico and the Caribbean.

    To mix metaphors, the investors are about to lose their shirts but have buried their heads in the sand and are marching on blindly because they are used to getting their way with local governments. They haven’t looked outside into the bigger world picture and need to consider converting these facilities to other uses before pouring any more money into them.

    The Cayman Islands as a whole will suffer if they continue in their stubborn unwillingness to accommodate a changing world with raised awareness about cruelty to dolphins.

    Boatswain’s Beach and other tourism businesses could be spared the terrible international public relations disaster and the boycotts that importing live dolphins will cause. It is perfectly acceptable for government to change its mind about allowing importation. They can cite international treaty violations. It wasn’t begun on their watch anyway and the good of the rest of the country has to be considered.

    This isn’t just a local issue and being locally "connected" won’t help them. They aren’t going to be able to do this "under the radar" – and no one is buying the "rehab center" idea anymore either.

  12. Rod McDowall says:

    It is a shame that the Government didn’t take notice of the opposition to these’attractions’ five years ago when they were first raised. It is never too late to stop a bad decision and not put further good money after bad, particulary when the potential downside and impact on our tourism product through international opposition will be so significant. One of the facilities has close links with the Boatswain’s Beach facility which is already a disgraceful waste of the country’s money and if they think dolphins will be some sort of saving grace I fear they are sadly mistaken. If the Cayman Islands are to retain any semblance of credibility and leadership in the tourism world and not destroy all the fine efforts over the years by many more enlightened individuals to protect our marine environment and humanitatian image, some courageous decision making is needed from our leadership. 

  13. Ron Moser says:

    I guess the lessons must be learned the hard way so, go ahead, get the Dolphins, let them play (for a little while) and let them die, as they very likely will. Ruin our reputation, waters, tourism etc. and for what? Think you are going to make some money with this set-up? Don’t think so!! They will not be allowed to import more Dolphins after the first 20 have died, then what? We all see a lot of cases of short term happiness, this would definitely be one of them with very long term bad consequences. Are Dolphins implemented yet in the current cruelty to animals laws? Or are they allowed to say later, oops, we did not mean to kill them!!

    Count your blessings………..and your dead Dolphin bodies…………..and be happy!!

  14. Tom S says:

    Why now you ask?  This type of "paper" has been brought up before.  This is another attempt to do "the right thing" and make the "powers that be" understand that the only reason to have a dolphin attraction is to provide "entertainment" for the cruise ship passengers. 

    This is an ongoing effort to try and educate the public to the "truth". This type of attraction, along with a Trolley Roger, pedicabs, Jeep tours and mini-boats, only fill a void for these cruise ship people have "something to do". 

    Cayman has not promoted their greatest assest, the ocean.  Instead, "lining your pockets" has been promoted.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Why now, after all the financial investment, infrastructural advancement and job creation?

    To many it will be seen as too little, too late.  It can also be seen as an unsure Government if this is put to a halt in the midst of all this and just prior to the opening of these parks.