Sutherland Says: `It Has Nothing To Do With St.
Do captured dolphins really help the tourism economy?
This is the question that environmentalists and Classic Tours
must be asking themselves this week.
The dolphin pen controversy simmered down over the last few weeks
after dominating the press and creating waves of bad publicity for
the project proponents, Classic Tours and Dolphin Fantaseas.
But just as things are getting quiet on the local front, there
are things happening regionally that could put another dent in the
argument that swimming with dolphins helps to boost the tourism
After a year of controversy the dolphin programme at Prospect
Reef Resort in the British Virgin Islands is shutting down. Four
dolphins from that project will be transferred to a new facility in
Dominica sometime in the next few weeks. The dolphins, Isla,
Jessica, Tracey and Kimbit should be in Dominica by early next
Manager of Dolphin Resorts, Ken Vaughan tried to downplay the
shutdown of the Virgin Islands operation, saying, "The dolphins were
here for a maximum stay of three years to begin with. Our facility
in Dominica was completed faster than expected, so we’re going to
move them faster than we planned."
However, it is clear that Dolphin Fantaseas was trying to dig
deeper roots in the BVI when they invested so much money in dredging
a lagoon and building enclosure. It is also the first time that
Dolphin Resorts has ever indicated that the dolphin programme was
Vaughan maintained that the programme was not closed for
financial reasons but he did say that the program was not ideal for
"The swim programme might not fit in with cruise ship tourism,"
he said, "because there’re thousands of people on those ships and we
only take 24 people a day."
Will this affect St. Lucia’s decision about whether to grant
permission to build a dolphin facility at Tapion Bay? Local
environmentalists are hoping it will. They are still mounting public
awareness campaigns to drive their point home against dolphin
captivity. More internationally recognized environmentalists like
Rick Obary and Gwen McKenna joined the fray this week, stirring up
the controversy with articles attacking the notion that dolphin pens
are good for the economy.
Roger Sutherland, director of M&C, one of the three partners
in the venture, was more laid back in his reaction to the
"I’m not going to get involved in the kind of debate where people
already have their minds set and there is nothing you can say to
them," he told THE MIRROR. "These people are paid
environmentalists," he said of Obary and McKenna. "They are bringing
out their big guns. But we are just a business and we made a
business proposal, applying to the DCA for permission and obeying
all the laws of the land."
As to how the failure of the dolphin programme in the BVI could
affect St. Lucia, Sutherland said, "It has nothing to do with St.
Lucia. Prospect Reef has their own problems, and St. Lucia is a
different market from the BVI."
Sutherland and his partners must be very keen to not raise any
more dust on this controversial issue. Controversy helped kill the
BVI programme. But with environmentalists picking up the pace of
their campaign, Classic Tours and Dolphin Fantaseas could see their
dream of a facility at Tapion Bay become unworkable, even if the DCA
grants them permission.