St Lucia forced to rethink dolphin park plan


Caribbean News Now! reports that, following the latest developments by the French Environment Ministry, dolphin parks across the Caribbean may have to change how they treat sea animals captured to entertain humans. This is what is happening on St. Lucia, where there may be second thoughts about establishment of a dolphin park on Pigeon Island, a popular national landmark. 

The government of Saint Lucia may be having second thoughts about establishment of a dolphin park on Pigeon Island, the island’s most popular national landmark. That’s according to the island’s tourism minister, who spoke just days after France took steps that will eventually close such parks across the republic and all its territories, including the Caribbean.

The Saint Lucia government’s plans to open a dolphin park on the offshore island joined to the mainland by a causeway attracted the condemnation of many there from as early as last year.  But opposition mounted earlier this month, including from the powerful Catholic Church, when the government confirmed it had eliminated the annual subvention for the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT), to which Pigeon Island is officially entrusted. But apart from the widespread and growing opposition since Prime Minister Allen Chastanet’s confirmation of the subvention cut during his budget address on May 9, his government’s plans faced another unexpected hurdle.

France last Saturday announced it had banned the breeding in captivity of dolphins, under tighter rules that campaigners hope will eventually herald the end of shows involving the animals. French environment minister Segolene Royal on May 3 signed in Paris a version of the legislation introducing “tight controls on the reproduction of dolphins”. But she later decided the rules needed to be “more radical”, particularly after learning that “some animals were drugged” in aquariums. The new French rules ban the captivity of all whales, dolphins and porpoises, except for orcas and bottlenose dolphins already held in authorized aquariums.

Animal rights activists have hailed the ban as a “historic French advance”, as stated by five conservation groups, including One Voice and Sea Shepherd, in a joint statement. “Without possible replenishment, this quite simply means the scheduled end of marine circuses on our territory.”

The new rules notably also require “an increase of at least 150 percent (in the size) of pools to allow the animals to live in less proximity from visitors and other animals”, the ministry said, as well as banning chlorine in treating the water. Direct contact between the animals and the public is also now forbidden. Water parks and aquariums have six months to conform to the new rules, and a three-year deadline for expanding their pools. Parks such as Marineland Antibes — the biggest attraction of its kind in Europe — have faced growing criticism in recent years over their animals’ living conditions.

The French ban is sure to have some implications for Saint Lucia’s efforts to establish a ‘Dolphinarium’ on Pigeon Island – and that might have led to the government’s second thoughts.

The SLNT expressed early opposition, citing international concern about the negative effects of keeping dolphins in captivity. But the government and the promoter’s spokespersons insisted the project was not incompatible with environmental protection and natural heritage preservation. [. . .]

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