Dolphin Crisis in Antigua

The dual-island nation Antigua & Barbuda became the center of controversy in December 2001 when a captive dolphin facility was established at Marina Bay in Antigua. The facility, which at the time was run by Dolphin Fantaseas, opened with three dolphins that had been captured in Cuba. In June 2004 Dolphin Fantaseas was taken over by Dolphin Discovery, a Mexican-based company that operates a number of Swim - With - The - Dolphins attractions in the Caribbean.  Dolphin Discovery imported several dolphins from one of their facilities in Mexico. We are told that these dolphins also originated from Cuba. 

Deplorable living conditions
When One Voice inspected the facility in September this year we found nine dolphins living in deplorable conditions. The enclosure was only eight feet deep at its deepest end. The dolphins had no access to shade from the burning sun and many had unusually dark skin, as a result of sunburn. Three dolphins were held in isolation for training purposes. They were locked up for days in confinements that measured just ten by ten meters.
Polluted pond poses health risk

Dolphin Discovery‚s facility not only violated the welfare of the dolphins; it also posed environmental problems.  The natural water flow from an adjacent salt pond was cut off by a road that had not previously been there. Whether the road had been built by the former administration or by the dolphin facility itself is unclear but, as a result, the pond overflowed when heavy rain set in, affecting businesses and private property in the area.  Worse yet, there was concern among locals that the stagnant water of the pond was contaminated, which could pose health risks to humans.  
A government under pressureThe only way to alleviate the flooding from the polluted pond was to restore the natural water flow into the ocean. In order to do so, the dirty water would have to run through the dolphin enclosure, thereby exposing the dolphins to pollution. The new government in Antigua repeatedly asked Dolphin Discovery to move the dolphins to another location in Antigua for this reason, but Dolphin Discovery ignored their requests. They also failed to show up for a meeting with government officials to resolve the crisis.  
We're told that, at some point, the desperate idea surfaced among some ministers to simply unplug the drain and let the water from the salt pond flow into the dolphin pen. This would have meant disaster for the dolphins. The filthy water almost certainly would have made them sick, perhaps even killed them. Another bad idea that circulated was that of pushing the dolphins out of their enclosure and into the ocean. But this, too, was an objectionable approach. There was no reassurance whatsoever that the dolphins were capable of foraging on their own, or that they were even in good health. Furthermore, Antigua & Barbuda and surrounding islands are over-fished. There is simply not enough fish in the area to sustain nine dolphins, and we predict they would have starved to death.
Urging the government to let the dolphins return home
When Martha Watkins-Gilkes of the Antigua & Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corporation (ABITPC) asked Ric O‚Barry, Marine Mammal Specialist for One Voice, for help in resolving the dolphin dilemma, he immediately traveled to Antigua where he met with the Minister of Health, Mr. Maginley. Ric pointed out to the minister that the dolphins would not survive if the government simply pushed them out of their enclosure and out to sea. He also pointed out that the dolphins' health would be at great risk if the polluted water was given access to the dolphin enclosure. He made it clear to the authorities that sending the dolphins to another captive dolphin facility was another dreadful idea that would only result in the dolphins‚ continued suffering.
"The right thing to do is confiscate the dolphins and implement a proper rehabilitation process with the ultimate goal of releasing the dolphins back into their home waters in Cuba," Ric said.

No freedom in sight
ABITPC and One Voice negotiated with government officials for three long weeks, calling for the dolphins' confiscation, rehabilitation and release. Sadly, the government did not take our advice. Instead they allowed Dolphin Discovery to relocate the dolphins to another exploitative captive dolphin facility in Tortola. They thereby prevented any possibility of giving the nine victim dolphins their freedom back. This is obviously a major disappointment to us all. At the same time we are happy to announce that we were able to persuade the government not to put the dolphins‚ lives at risk by forcing them to leave their enclosure or flooding their enclosure with polluted water.
Banning dolphin captivity in Antigua & Barbuda

ABITPC and One Voice are now lobbying with government officials to deny Dolphin Discovery a permit to return to Antigua & Barbuda, and to implement legislation to ban dolphin captivity from these islands.

What you can do

Please write a letter to the Prime Minister of Antigua.
Express your disappointment that the government did not do what was best for the dolphins, which was to let them return to Cuba for rehabilitation and release.  
Urge the government not to allow Dolphin Discovery to return to Antigua & Barbuda in the future.
Urge the government to learn from past mistakes and ban dolphin captivity from Antigua & Barbuda forever.
· Send your letter to The Honorable Prime Minister Baldwyn Spencer at fax number 1- 268 462 3225.
· Email copies of your letter to The Antigua Sun : RNanton@antiguasun.com
· and to the editor of Daily Observer : dailyobserver@candw.ag

Exposing illegal trade in dolphins

Dolphin Discovery, as far as we know, is operated by US citizens. It is illegal for US citizens to trade in Cuban dolphins, and One Voice and Canadian activist Gwen McKenna have reported the incident to the US Government. In August this year another US citizen, Dr. Graham Simpson, was given a fine by the U.S. Treasury Department for violating the trade embargo against the communist nation by purchasing Cuban dolphins for a dolphin swim attraction in Anguilla, formerly known as Dolphin Fantaseas.

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