(SNO) — The Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) is adamant that the establishment of a proposed dolphinarium in Saint Lucia will “do more harm than good” to the local tourism industry.
And in its continued thrust to reinforce its concerns, the organisation was scheduled to stage the viewing of the film ‘Dolphin Dilemma: The Antigua and Barbuda Story’ — a free event — on Wednesday, September 5 at the Finance Administrative Centre, Pointe Seraphine, Castries.
Following the viewing of the film, scheduled were a panel discussion and question-and-answer session with the producers of the documentary, and with SLNT and local fisheries officials.
Though not much has been said about the dolphinarium in recent times, the SLNT believes the project is still in the works.
In a press statement, the organisation said whilst attempts to ascertain the exact location and other pertinent information about the project has been futile, “we were informed earlier this year that plans are likely to go ahead for the Dolphinarium”.
“Considering that the initial plan shared by the developers was for the waters off Pigeon Island, we firmly believe that if the plans go ahead it would be regressive and do more harm than good for our tourism industry,” organisation stated.
The SLNT also believes the dolphin facility will negatively affect the local marine ecosystem, the livelihoods of close to 100 fisher folks, and their families and beachgoers in the north of the island. That’s because the organisation believes “the water quality would be compromised due to the dolphins excretion, operators of whale and dolphin watch excursions and snuba diving operations”.
Executive producer of ‘Dolphin Dilemma’, Martha Watkins-Gilkes said in the press release that Saint Lucia is the latest island to consider adding a dolphinarium and activists want to put a stop to this.
She dubbed the dolphinarium initiative “dolphin prostitution” as it continues to be a lucrative business model but the damage to the water mammals, the environment and communities outweighs the profits to a few, according to the press release.
“We are about to expand the film to tell the Caribbean story in the hope of stopping Dolphin Discovery and other companies like it, from opening dolphinariums as tourism attractions,” Watkins-Gilkes said.
In a March 2017 Jamaica Gleaner article, Dolphin Cove had disclosed that it plans to “pump another US$3.5 million ($450 million) into setting up its marine parks in St Lucia, its largest investment in nearly four years, which follows a change of ownership of the marine park”.
According to the article, Dolphin Cove Limited wants to grow regionally beyond its present operations within Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and that it had secured land in Turks & Caicos “but that location still remains undeveloped”.
The company only recently started pumping money into the St Lucia operation with the capital spend at that location totalling US$1.4 million as at December 2016, the Gleaner report had stated.
“At December 31, 2016, commitments for capital expenditure in respect of the construction of a new encounter park in St Lucia, for which no provision has been made in these financial statements, is US$3.5 million,” stated the audited financial report as quoted by The Gleaner.
The Saint Lucia government said at least 60 people will be hired once the project comes on stream.
The Devaux family, St. Lucia Animal Protection Society (SLAPS), and three Antigua environmental groups — the Antigua Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corp., Antigua Conservation Society, and the Environmental Awareness Group — have all opposed the project.
Former Chairman of the main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) Julian Hunte and his son, radio talk show host, Christopher Hunte, have also publicly voiced their concerns against the project.
However, Julian was called a “hypocrite” by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet in early 2017.
According to Chastanet, Julian is opposing a project which his party, when in power, had approved.
“… he is a hypocrite because he is the chairman of a party that approved the same dolphin park. So this is where we now have to separate what is political rhetoric from what is the reality on the ground,” Chastanet had told reporters.
Chastanet ha noted that Hunte’s party gave favour to the same project back in 2013-2014 when it was earmarked for development at Anse Jambett in Canaries. He admitted that there are environmental concerns with the project, but those are being addressed like any previous development in St. Lucia.
The SLNT said it opposes the project regardless of its location.