GUEST EDITORIAL: Opposition To Dolphin ‘Sanctuary’ on St. Thomas Forms Along Humane Lines
By RITA DE FERRARY
The multiples of repetition of “sea sanctuary” by multiple news media outlets doesn’t make it so, and is simply an untruth concocted to sway public opinion.
Sanctuaries are typically habitat or living areas, that exclude human and commercial activities and or are associated with rehabilitation and release in the case of marine mammals, or retirement from commercial exploitation, such as circus animals.
Coral World’s business model is a for profit business, exploiting these dolphins to generate money for the business. It is no more a sanctuary than any other business selling a commodity, of which these dolphins are. A figure of $5,000,000.00 increased annual dollars was used in documents ranging from written proposals, to legislative testimony. Similar to the manner in which the sea lions were acquired through threats of closure due to insufficient revenue.
The reality is that the U.S. Virgin Islands government has permitted a marine mammal version of a puppy mill, as it has been clearly outlined by Coral World that any “surplus” dolphins would be sold. Trained dolphins sold to marine parks go for hundreds, and millions of dollars.
Water Bay is also a polluted watershed, with testing results coming in at a 40 percent unsafe to swim conditions. In their proposal which was accepted by DPNR, Coral World does their own testing and submits this information to the government. The government should have required independent testing by an EPA certified lab, not connected in any way to the facility.
Dolphins and people, tourists or residents, will be exposed to these conditions in the business model whose revenue is based on a for profit swim with dolphin attraction, and breeding to sell program.
So whereas other countries are banning the breeding of marine mammals, dolphins and orcas, the U.S. Virgin Islands government has permitted and endorsed the breeding of dolphins, effectively licensing a captive dolphin breeding facility, in a known polluted watershed.
It would have been good to establish the U.S. Virgin Islands as a marine mammal sanctuary, banning captive dolphin attractions and or breeding. But calling this a sanctuary is not true, and no amount of repetition by what’s supposed to be an unbiased source media outlet, will make it so.