Controversial Dolphin Exhibit One Step Closer to Construction

Dolphin Discovery
Image source: Dolphin Discovery Tortola

The controversial dolphin encounter program proposed for St. Thomas’ Coral World Ocean Park got one step closer to construction last week.

According to the Virgin Islands Daily News, the Senate granted Coral World an amended lease that would enable it to use a portion of its facility for a dolphin encounter program. Coral World’s next step is to obtain the governor’s approval. If that occurs, the future of the exhibit would then be in the hands of government agencies that reside outside of the territory such as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Marine Fisheries Services.

Plans to create the 70,000-square-foot dolphin encounter exhibit garnered an intense reaction from island residents and visitors when it was announced last year. Many people claimed the attraction was inhumane and that it would negatively impact the dolphins living in captivity, while proponents described it as having the potential to give a “much needed boost” to the territory’s economy.

If approved, six dolphins or less are expected to call the attraction home in the first year, although that number may increase to 10 during subsequent years. The dolphins used in the attraction will be purchased from those already living in captivity, according to Coral World, and will not be taken from the wild.

The attraction is expected to draw an additional 25,000 to 35,000 visitors annually. It is also expected to bring more than $4 million of additional revenue into the territory each year.

Want to hear more from both sides? Check out this short news clip that aired in August 2012 when the park’s plans were first announced:

 

32 thoughts on “Controversial Dolphin Exhibit One Step Closer to Construction”

  1. This inhumane project is unnecessary. It is a form of slavery of a highly intelligent species of fish with near human attributes.

    The Case Against Captive Dolphins:

    Dolphins are highly intelligent creatures

    Dolphins have more brain gray matter than humans

    Dolphins can understand combinations of complex instructions

    They are self aware, an ability that doesn’t develop in humans until age 2

    They have highly developed communication skills, including having unique signature
    whistles to identify themselves to others (like our names)

    Dolphins experience emotions

    Nearly all captive dolphins are caught in the wild and do not come from captive breeding programs

    Captive breeding programs have had limited success and cannot sustain the demand
    for captive dolphins

    Dolphinaria create demand for more wild captures and wild capture methods are cruel
    and inhumane—they traumatize the animals, separate family groups and lead to high
    mortality rates among both captured an those not captured.

    If the USVI government or any other government on this planet believes in protecting marine mammals in our waters, we should not support the unregulated and inhumane
    capture of them.

    Many countries, such as the US, Mexico, Brazil and many others have banned the
    capture of wild dolphins in their waters

    Japan and Cuba are the most common locations for wild capture
    today.
    There is a six fold increase in
    mortality of a dolphin that is captured during the first five
    days after capture…his mortality risk increase occurs every time a dolphin is
    transported–for example, from Jamaica to Grand Turk…

    Many countries, the latest being India and including the new target for tourism to the
    TCI, Brazil, have banned captive dolphin facilities

    Keeping dolphins in sea pens, as proposed here has the following adverse
    effects….Significantly reduced physical activity…..wild dolphins swim as much as 100 miles/day

    Dolphins are not scavengers

    They must be taught to eat dead, imported fish which
    lacks adequate nutritional value requiring them to be also given vitamins and other
    nutr itional supplements

    Unlike other animals kept in captivity, there is no increase in life expectancy for captive
    dolphins despite the purported benefits of reduced predation, abundance of food and
    good medical care

    Monitoring the health of captive dolphins
    is challenging which often means that by the
    time a problem is observed, it is frequently to late for successful treatment

    • GOVERNOR

      How perfectly DAN BOSTDORF stated EXACTLY what is internationally known by many countries .

      Transporting captured dolphins into the CONTAMINATED AREA of
      WATER BAY…… POLLUTED with RAW HUMAN SEWRAGE, from faulty SEPTIC TANKS & OIL LEACHING INTO THE BAY!

      QUESTION: would GOVERNOR , his SENATORS & ALL the INVESTORS of CORAL WORLD go for a swim in those POLLUTED CONTAMINATED WATERS??? …..

      What does our Governor really think it is like to be kept in a SMALL PRISON of POLLUTED WATERS & fed DEAD FISH twice a day , & how would our GOVERNOR feel about spending the rest of his life in MENTAL ANGUISH??
      NEVER TO BE FREE AGAIN ???? NEVER to feel the freedom of swimming in the
      magnificent SEA AROUND THIS EARTHLY PLANET?

      GOVENOR….. DO YOU HAVE THE HEART AND COURAGE TO SIGN >>>>>NO

      Come on Governor, speak to us HONESTLY……
      INVITE the PRIOR FAMILY to GO SWIMING IN THIS POLLUTED WATER BAY with you……

      We will arrange to have a great film crew on hand to capture your comments and then present the footage we produce around the globe and the comments from the public out cry on the island of St Thomas…. should SO MANY COUNTRIES
      AWARE OF HOW CRUEL, UNEDUCATED , OUTOF TOUCH OUR GOVERNMENT & BOARD OF TOURISM REALLY IS!

      Are you really going to NOT STAND up to the PRIOR FAMILY & their GREED for MONEY ….. allow them to BUILD THIS DOLPHIN PRISON ….. train these
      intelligent species with such CRUEL methods ? dooming them to a life of hunger
      for FRESH FISH & WILD OPEN SEA ?

      Having sailed from CANADA to my homeland NEW ZEALAND , on this journey seen hundreds of WILD DOLPHINS leaping & dancing in front of our 50 foot sail boat .
      PLAYED with the dolphins in the shallow water as I was scrubbing the bottom of our boat, sent mental messages of LOVE & JOY to link our mind power.
      Will I EVER forget this vision ?…..NO

      GOVENOR ….. DO YOU want to be responsible for sick & dying captive DOLPHINS?…

      CRUELTY FROM THE MOMENT THEY ARE CAPTURED /
      TRANSPORTED & RELEASED INTO THE CONTAMINATED WATER BAY !

      TRAINING & FEEDING IS THE CRUELEST NOT TO MENTION THEIR
      CONFINEMENT IN SUCH A SMALL AREA OF WATER…. after swimming free
      over hundreds of miles in magnificent oceans around the globe.

      I, for one will step forward, make sure the cruelty of what you
      agreed to will be KNOWN AROUND THE WORLD…..

      .NOT GOOD PUBLICITY for ST THOMAS.

      NEW ZEALAND , AUSTRALIA , SOUTH PACIFIC ISLANDS, FIJI , TAHITI , and this end of the globe ….. USA & CANADA…….
      EUROPE : THE NETHERLANDS , DENMARK , GERMANY, FRANCE.

      INDIA IS RIGHT , count the DOLPHINS as a SPIRITUAL FREE & JOYFUL CREATURE ……MAKE IT LAW NOT TO CAPTURE or hold CAPTIVE ANY DOLPHIN IN PRISON to entertain the public.

      STAND UP, STEP FORWARD , AND SIGN NO TO CAPTIVE DOLPHINS for
      CORAL WORLD ON ST THOMAS.

      HONOR this magnificently
      INTELLIGENT mammal.

  2. The comment above is well informed. Visiting the swim-with-dolphins facility on Tortola will show anyone how negative the experience is for the dolphins. I went there expecting something wonderful, and instead found dolphins rigorously on cue for their tossed fish and absolutely no sense of genuine encounter. Yes, you can touch them, but no, they aren’t choosing where to be or when to approach or even in what physical position they must hold their bodies. It’s all in obedience to dog whistles and hunger. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of dolphin intelligence or the slightest experience of dolphins at liberty will be shocked and saddened at this distortion of the dolphins’ normal way of life.

    Why are the Virgin Islands not following the lead of so many countries that have banned captive dolphin facilities?

    • Julie, this is in St. Thomas, not St. John; however we felt it was important to publicize it given the close proximity of the two islands.

  3. St Thomas wills have seen my last dollar if this happens…sorry St John, that means you to becasue I won’t send a dime to land on St Thomas, use a taxi and the ferry. The USVIs are a very poorly managed entity, this is just a ploy for more corrupt people to make money…

  4. Dan is absolutely right, please read his first post if you haven’t.

    Like Susan, I, too, have swum with dolphins in captivity and came away with the same sentiment – the dolphins I saw were robotic and without any free spirit. It’s hard to explain, you just need to look them in the eye to really understand that someone is home.

    Dolphins are intelligent in ways we still do not understand and should never be contained. They are born wild, live free, and do not need humans to survive.

    Dolphins in the wild are curious, social and intelligent beings. Why can’t we just appreciate THAT?

    You want to swim with dolphins? There’s a big ocean out there, have at it. Knowing what we know today, ANYONE WHO PAYS TO SEE A DOLPHIN IN CAPTIVITY IS LAZY AND PIOUS. Clearly any government who pushes this new method of generating tourist dollars is LAZY AND UNIFORMED.

    If it’s dollars the Tourism Board is after, why not boost the entire marine industry? Dolphin seminars,dolphin sight-seeing tours, and more could be developed and we could be known as the dolphin-friendly islands, instead of prison guards to wild intellect.

    Clearly it’s easier to just build a prison and bring the dolphins to us. Another brilliant move by the VI Government. This entire project is Sick. Absolutely SICK.

    Learn more about cetacean intelligence here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cetacean_intelligence

  5. The USVI Senators and the investors of Coral World care only about the speculated several million dollars of visitor dollars they claim the dolphin encounter would bring to our islands. They care nothing about the mammals that will suffer for the rest of their lives if this plan is implemented.

    By adding this “attraction” to St. Thomas, in addition to promoting animal cruelty on the island, Coral World would further St. Thomas’s negative image.

    Tortola has long advertised itself as one of Nature’s Little Secrets. Permitting a dolphin encounter onto that wonderful island has NOT enhanced its image at all.

  6. What a sad, sad, sad “attraction”…This is NOT a progressive, forward thinking approach to sustainable tourism. This is a step back in time, BEFORE we knew better. What does it say about us, that we choose to pretend we don’t KNOW better?

  7. Even more shocking is the owner of Coral World is also the President of the St. Thomas Humane Society!! I cannot even believe that the US Humane Society would not try to intervene, both for the dolphins and for the other dogs and cats, they apparently maintain pending adoption, or…..

    I find this association between Humane Society and Dolphinarium revolting.

  8. This is one families doing. The complete wrongness of dolphin encounters on St. Thomas is the work of the Prior family. This should be laid at their feet. Why should their pursuit of greed trump the injustice levered against these dolphins.
    The bay (Water Bay) they are proposed to be kept in fails water quality tests every time it rains. Oil, sewage from improper septic tanks and other detritus concentrate in the Smith Bay area and flow directly into Water Bay.
    This situation is bad enough with out having the dolphins swim in a contaminated environment.

  9. As the author of three travel guidebooks to the USVI, I can testify that this project is incredibly bad publicity (and bad for the image of) St. Thomas and the USVI.

    This project absolutely must not go forward!

  10. Just sent off a letter to the governor. Write your own from your point of view, from your heart. Be positive. May this proposal not go through. Blessings for the dolphins.

  11. Many countries are now more educated about animal welfare and reducing this type of attraction. Why is St. Thomas lagging behind ? I am so disappointed that in this day and age they would think this is a good idea.

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