Info boss welcomes review

| 09/06/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island Headline News, Cayman captive dolphin facilities(CNS): The application for a judicial review by a government department over an FOI decision has come at good time, the Information Commissioner has said. Commenting on the first challenge made to any of her decisions, Jennifer Dilbert said she is interested to see what a judge will say about the process as it will help inform the upcoming review of the law. The Department of Agriculture is the first public sector body that has sought the court’s intervention regarding the Freedom of Information Law. It is seeking to keep secret the guidelines which it has supposedly used to create local standards for the management of dolphins at the country’s two captive facilities.

Dilbert said that, while she stood by her ruling that the document should be in the public domain, the law is written to enable people to challenge any decision she makes and this will add to the wider public understanding of how freedom of information works and the independence of her office.
“It will send a clear message that the Information Commissioner’s Office is not government, but truly independent,” she said, pointing out that the DoA was using the Attorney General to file its application with the courts but the Information Commissioner’s Office would seek its own independent legal counsel to defend the decision and how the decision was made.
“We are due to review the Freedom of Information Law in July as it is written that it be re-examined after 18 months to ensure that it is working well, and if this judicial review can be carried out before then it will help inform that process,” Dilbert said. “It is all part of the learning curve.”
However, she acknowledged that now the process was in the hands of the courts she could not be sure when a hearing date would be set but she hoped in would be at the earliest opportunity, not just for the sake of informing the review of the law, but to satisfy the principles of the FOI that the requester is given the information in a timely manner.
Dilbert explained that the judge will review the process — the way she arrived at her decision and if her choice not to consider certain exemptions was fair, and then whether her decision was reasonable. He will then decide whether another hearing should be held or if Dilbert’s decision was made in accordance with the law and it should stand.
It is not clear yet if the judicial review will be heard  in public given the aim of the DoA is to keep the document in question under wraps.
The document that is the cause of this first FOI government challenge is a set of guidelines which the DoA has used to set its standards for the management of captive dolphins in the Cayman Islands. Following the refusal of a freedom of information request for the “Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquarium Standards and Guidelines”, in April Dilbert ruled that the document should be released and pointed out that, as it had been referenced as informing public policy, it should be accessible by the general public.
The DoA objected to the release as they said it was received in confidence as only members of the alliance usually have access. In correspondence to the DoA the AMMPA had specifically asked it to keep the document from the anti-captive dolphin groups based in Cayman.
The individual who made the request has pointed to the absurdity of this document being secret, especially as neither Dolphin Cove nor Dolphin Discovery are members of the AMMPA. While both facilities claim they follow the highest international standards in the management of the captive dolphins, the question is how, if they have never seen these particular guidelines, they can be sure.
All other guidelines are public and if the AMMPA were released than it would be possible to compare and contrast, and establish how well dolphins are being managed, an issue which has become even more important to the anti-captive dolphin activists since the recent death of a young dolphin born in captivity.
During her ruling Dilbert had said it was difficult to see how a document can be meant to “enhance and compliment … government standards for the care and maintenance of marine mammals” and at the same time be considered confidential.
She ruled that the DoA should release the document by 3 June. However, the attorney general filed the application for a judicial review on 2 June placing the decision into the hands of the courts.
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  1. Anonymous says:

    A complete waste of time and money. Ask DOE, Planning, or Water Authority instead. They, and probably some other Government departments, all have it and will probably give it up immediately. The DOA Information Manager is simply "old school" and believes the public is not entitled to any information.

  2. Anonymous says:

    DOA needs some shaking up!!!

  3. EcoTourist says:

    The dolphin parks in the Cayman Islands are not only bad for the island’s marine envoronment but also contributing to the decline of tourism, as many visitors are eco friendly divers, snorkelers and the like, that don’t want to go to a place that allows that sort of thing.

    There’s a great new website that exlplains all about it, especially the ruthless practice of capturing the dolphins.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please forward to McBush and The Chuckester!

      You both knew about the violation of laws by the dolphin people and yet still you both forced through the dolphin prisons.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone else find it ironic that government money is being used to fight the release and government money is being used to defend the decision to release when we’re broke? The Attorney General himself is representing the DoAg and the FOI Commissioner will be seeking outside legal counsel – that doesn’t come cheap!

    Yes, the article clearly states the independence of the FOI Commissioner’s office, but their budget is government money and the legal department budget is government money and the DoAg budget is government money… that’s a lot of government money…

  5. Anonymous says:

    doa won’t release animal welfare guidelines……another day in wonderland…zzzz

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is a farcical situation; a futile waste of public money on lawyers whilst the taxpayer funds a defence of what we all suspect is simply that the DoAg tries to prevent us finding out that they did not in fact apply these (or any other) guidelines. I have visited both venues and the staff seem to know what they are doing and they appear to care big time. But of course that is not the point.

    I do not agree with captive dolphins here. BUT, I would 1000% rather be a dolphin in a Cayman tourist attraction than a cow or horse tethered 24/7 through the summer heat by Bobby Thompson Way without access to any shade whatsoever, just a blue plastic tub of solar powered hot water (assuming there is water in there!).  Nobody says a word about that, but it’s a scandal.

  7. Anonymous says:

    CNS, what happened to the request for the travel expenditure of the Premier, previously requested from the FOI office????

    There are many of us Caymanians who wants to know how much was spent on traveling and for what purpose.

    CNS: The request was made on the 12 May. By law they have 30 days (this Friday) to either respond or say they need an extension.

  8. Green Hornet says:

    Guidelines? What guidelines?

    from a "beligerant fool" (according to Dred) LOL

    • Dred says:

      I call most activist beligerant fools for how they act. Sometimes their causes are just many times not. Most times they just pick out something because they know it will make headlines and they can get their seconds of fame.

      There are numerous cases where organisations such as PETA have been proven worse to animals than the people they attack.

      So, NO I do not take my words back.

      In Cayman we stand up and say ooh protect the Dolphins yet many of these so call people will go to restaurants and eat the animals they protect. What about cows? Where are their protection and horses? Dogs? Cats? Where are they on protecting all animals? Is it because dolphins are so cute?

      I have seen no signs on cars saying protect the cows? We slaughter them every year for our Christmas feast.

      So much hypocrisy it’s mind boggling.


      • Dick Shaugneary says:

        "So, NO I do not take my words back." I don’t mean to sound belligerent, but I would suggest you do take back the word "beligerant" because it does not exist and exposes you to accusations of hypocrisy when used in the phrase "beligerant fools". 

        • Pit Bull says:

          Wow – have you managed to shut up Dred?  There is a first time for everything . . .

  9. Dolphin Lundgren says:

    Some possible advertising tag lines:

    "Come swim with dolphins who are likely to die prematurely and suffer tremendously during their lives"


    "Come swim with dolphins, at least we treat them better than our turtles (we eat them)"


    "We treat our dolphins so well we have nothing to hide (but we might as well keep it secret anyway"



    • Dolphin Lundgren says:

      Aw, shame about the XXXX, the last one was the best and unfortunately probably also true!

    • Anonymous says:

      How about "Come visit the dolphins, we are dying to entertain you".

      Red Shank


  10. John Evans says:

    More public money down the drain.

    Win or lose the people of the Cayman Islands will pick up the tab for this.

    It’s been my experience in the UK that the single most common reason for government departments to block FOI requests is the fact that documents requested contain material that might prove embarrassing. In this case it might be assumed that the AMMPA guidelines have not been applied.

    It’s actually worth checking out the Washington-based AMMPA’s website, which states –

    The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums is an international association representing marine life parks, aquariums, zoos, research facilities, and professional organizations dedicated to the highest standards of care for marine mammals and to their conservation in the wild through public education, scientific study, and wildlife presentations.

    Note the reference to, "public education." That clearly implies that their activities are designed to benefit everyone so why the secrecy?

    • Anonymous says:

      The scientific study part ties in nicely with Taiji Japan’s brutal commercial dolphin harvesting, the practice is the source for majority of captive dolphins.

  11. Red Flag says:

    What is so bad about these guidelines that the Dept of Ag and the owners and operators of the Dolphin prisons don’t want the paying public to know???!!!!  This opposition to the release of the these guidelines tells me that there is something REALLY SINISTER going on in the treatment of these animals.  If all were good, shouldn’t the owners and operators be parading their guidelines around so that all can see what good people they are…instead of skulking around in the dark and hiding this information??? 

    • Anonymous says:

      Management at the DOA is not the swiftest or they would realise they are heading for a "Dolphingate"situation. If everything was fine and dandy, there would be no reason to cover up and hide. So silly.

  12. peter milburn says:

    I totally agree with kissmebackfoot(interesting handle)These magnificent creatures(certainly smarter than most MLA’s)should be left right where they should be in the oceans of the world where they can roam free and delight us mortals with the occassional appearance.I have encountered them while diving many times while diving around Grand Cayman and they are a joy to behold.

  13. Carol Busby says:

    If the powers to be are not doing anything wrong and the dolphins are being treated humane, then what’s all the secrets about? Makes a person wonder. Everyone should know how these animals are being treated, They should be in the wild, free where they belong!

  14. Anonymous says:

    For those brave enough to examine this trade, we should arrange another local screening of "the Cove":


  15. Anonymous says:

    If you are not doing anything wrong there is no need to hide your guidelines.  The parks should be closed until this case is resolved and the information released.  If you have nothing to hide then Hide nothing.

    I am sure that Hitler did not release the guidelines he had for the concentration camps either.


  16. Anonymous says:

    Why do the DOA want to be so secretive – something to hide?  Something they don’t want the public (who pay for everything they do) to know?  We paid for it, we have a right to know about it.  Simple as.  Period.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Shame on the DoA. Why in the world would they want to try to have this information seen to be some sort of National Security secret. Why?

    Talk about an alarming amount of waste of Govt. resources to fight something that should be readily available online and otherwise. It’s no wonder the Cayman Govt. is broke…what a waste of money and time by the DoA! and the Attorney General.

    Thank you again Ms. Dilbert for standing up for FOI and the rights of the people!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Clearly any secret standards relating to dolphin care ought to be protected as a matter of national security in any circumstances in which party finances might be affected. Otherwise how would the money continue to flow into the party?     

  19. people ought to know how these dolphins are being treated – then they’ll think twice about the monies spent for a "good cause." These things should be in the wild, free where they belong

    • Dred says:

      While I am not an activist andin general I find activist to be beligerant fools I believe that this information should be made public. Keeping a document like this secret only adds fuel to the fire already burning.

      I believe that if your standards are high you should have nothing to hide. The fact that you try to run behind the law leaves me to wonder what you are in fact trying to hide.



    • Anonymous says:

      What if the guidelines show what many people expect? That the Dolphins are cared for properly and by those properly trained to do so?! Will the bleeding heart anti-dolphin campaigners finally pipe down?! I doubt it but I live in hope…

      • Joe Average says:

        NOT….anti-dolphin campaigners……ANTI- Captive Dolphin campaigners.  NOT….bleeding heart……concerned human beings.  Why don’t you join??  That is if you can past the test.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’d rather have a bleeding heart than no heart… anyday. Aside from that, your comment would be appreciated if you could refrain from tossing in the aggressive (and thoughtless) label.

      • Anonymous says:

        You know what?

        I never thought of the people fighting for the freedom of dolphins as "ANTI" anything people.

        I always thougth of them as a group of "FOR" people – "FOR THE FREEDOM OF DOLPHINS".

        Yes, I hope that the freedom fight for dolphins will continue as long as there are persons against "FREE DOLPHINS".