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Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
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I have recently learned that Teresa Parkey and the Hugh Parkey Foundation are proposing a swim-with-dolphins park in Belize. There is a meeting on the subject in Belize City October 6 at 7 p.m. at the Belize Biltmore Plaza.

Parkey seems to be a good person, but my initial reaction to this is very negative. Swim-with-dolphin parks say "Cancun" or "Florida" to me, not Belize. To me, swim-with-dolphins programs where dolphins are penned up give the wrong image for Belize's ecotourism industry.

There was one proposed off Ambergris Caye a few years ago, but happily it never materialized. Some ecologically sensitive countries such as Costa Rica have banned swim-with-dolphin zoos.

Below is a thoughtful letter on the subject from Jean-Michel Cousteau. It was sent in 2003 regarding a proposed dolphin program in the Caymans. I suspect these are the same dolphins from Honduras that were proposed for Cayman. As everyone doubtless knows, it was the father, Jacques Cousteau, who brought Belize's Blue Hole to world attention.

--Lan Sluder


I would like to add my voice to those of many Caymanians concerned about the possible introduction of a swim-with-dolphins facility in the Cayman Islands.

The project's supporters claim that it would be a financial gold mine, but in the long run, a captive dolphin facility would destroy the Cayman Islands' outstanding eco-tourism credentials, and is certain to rebound to the detriment of the local economy. Already several thousand tourists, from over 30 countries, have signed petitions expressing their opposition to the proposed park.

Why? Because swim-with-dolphin programs are simply a disaster in the making, both for the dolphins and for the people who visit them. The Cayman facility, operated by a group called Living Sea, reportedly plans to house its dolphins in "natural enclosures." This is an oxymoron. For a dolphin accustomed to roaming free up to 40 miles per day, any enclosure is unnatural, and thus the Living Sea facility is in effect little more than a concrete jail. The dolphins, reputedly transferred from captivity in Honduras, were taken violently from their family and home range, and held in pools or pens. In the Caymans, their situation will not improve; they will still be fed dead fish and coerced (by the promise of food the imposition of hunger) to perform tricks and interact, whether they want to or not, with humans.

To counter the global outcry over what amounts to forced labor of a sentient, social and intelligent animal, the swim-with-dolphins industry has added a few new wrinkles to the now familiar justification of its own self-serving goals. Cayman citizens should not be surprised if they hear some of these specious claims.

For one, swim-with-dolphins programs like Living Sea purport to be educational. In fact, they are anti-educational, because they foster the false impression that dolphins are gentle, "warm and fuzzy" creatures, when they are far more complex and interesting, and capable of a range of behaviors, including violence. They are predators with a dominance hierarchy. The false impression leads to ignorance, not enlightenment. This ignorance hurts both dolphins, who are captured and sentenced to life terms for crimes that don't exist, and humans, who can be injured physically, cheated financially and short-changed intellectually.

Some of these businesses also infer that buying time with a captive dolphin helps nurture a greater respect for these animals, even a desire to protect them. This logic has always escaped me, since the chief threat to bottlenose dolphins is the captive dolphin industry.

Some operators claim that swimming with dolphins is therapeutic. Children suffering from Down's Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other conditions are frequent visitors to swim-with-dolphins facilities. While I understand the feelings of reverence and awe that contact with these magnificent creatures inspires, it is critical that people everywhere understand that there is no scientific evidence to prove that swimming with dolphins provides a medical benefit for humans. Other programs, using domesticated animals and plant environments, have similar results and do not involve the cruelty inherent in dolphin captivity.

Far from universally beneficial, swimming with dolphins can actually be bad for you. Broken bones, lacerations, internal injuries, shock--these are just a few of the wounds reported by paying customers.

The effects on dolphins are even worse. After surviving a traumatic capture-and many don't--dolphins are confined in a space that does not allow them to exercise even their most basic natural functions. They suffer from enforced monotony, confinement stress, poor diet, disease, muscular atrophy. So the life span of a captive marine mammal is not only considerably shorter than that of a wild one, but considerably less worth living.

Australian researchers have found that the problems do not disappear when the operation is moved to open pens or bays, such as that proposed by Living Sea. Even wild dolphins habituated to human contact spend up to seven hours interacting with people, and literally forget to feed. In addition, tour boats routinely scare away the schools of fish that dolphin pods herd into feeding position.

Finally, some facilities claim they are engaged in research. But the fact is that captive dolphin husbandry is the only "science" they are capable of producing. And any "findings" that might emerge are more suited to profiles in understanding the human psyche than to peer-reviewed cetacean research.

Although swim-with-dolphins operators are adept at exploiting grey areas in the law, time is not on their side. Australia is considering legislation that would limit the hours and locations of interaction. In the Caribbean, the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol of the Cartagena Convention protects marine mammals, and in Mexico, a new law prohibits the capture of dolphins for display. It would be a shame if the Cayman Islands were to fall from what is the wave of the future in ecotourism into the host of environmental profiteers.

Over the past several years, I was privileged to be a consultant for the Ministry for Tourism. During that time, I took pride in helping to promote locales, like Stingray City and Tarpon Alley, that offered tourists the opportunity to experience the Cayman environment on its own terms.

Swim-with-dolphins operations are incompatible with this philosophy, and are an insult to those of us who view humanity as stewards of nature. They are bad for dolphins, bad for tourists, and in the end, bad for business.

I strongly urge the responsible authorities to preserve the Cayman Islands' positive environmental image, and reject the proposed facility.


Jean-Michel Cousteau

Ocean Futures Society

In a message dated 10/5/04 3:04:53 PM,

> Begin forwarded message:
>> From: Lisa Carne
>> Date: October 4, 2004 10:44:15 AM PDT
>> Subject: DOLPHIN "PARK"
>>> ....basically, Teresa Parkey and her foundation are proposing to
IMPORT approx. 10 dolphins from Honduras (Anthony's Caye Resort) and create
a dolphin park here in Bze out at Spanish Bay resort. These dolpins would be
enclosed in a 4 acre pen, and she would be offering a 'swim with the
dolphins' programm.

>>> They completed the EIA and is now up for commenting. Copies of this document are available for preusal at the Biltmore plaza, DOE and the
National Library. (I will be doing a brief summary of this document and forwarding this to you since you might not have access to it) The general
public has until the 15th of October to submitt their comments to DOE (we suggest this be faxed in or emailed in but CC'd to a few others - just so
records exist). There is also a public meeting being held on the 6th of
October at 7:00 pm at the Belize Biltmore Plaza here in Bze city for the general public
to 'learn more about the project and to give your views and comments'. ...
--Captive Dolphin Awareness Foundation:
--Dolphin Captivity Banned in Nicaragua:
--Haiti Says No to Dolphin Captivity:

Lan Sluder/Belize First
As a Belizean dive center operator I'm opposed to any scheme that involves restricting the freedom of dolphins. If they are free to come and go I have no objections. I have dived with dolphins in the Maldives, totally wild in the open ocean, and it was an amazing experience. They just came to us, and stayed with us for the duration of the dive. When they look at you there is no question that there's a substantial intelligence there. I've had the same experience with Orca whales in the north Pacific.

Joined: May 2000
Posts: 1,191
Here's the deal: If the "usual culprits" certain senior members of the Cabinet here in Belize, are not offered enough money for them to approve the dolphin project to go ahead, they won't approve it.

Joined: May 2000
Posts: 1,191
BTW, "Haiti Says No to Dolphin Captivity".... Haiti is not exactly the most envorinmentally aware country in the world with 99% of its forests burnt for cooking fires.

Quoting the actions of Haiti as a recommendation for good environmental policy is a bit like recommending Chernobyl for nuclear reactor design.

Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
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Forwarded message:


Teresa is a friend of mine, but my reaction is similar to yours, Lan. We are in the United States during the off season and will not be able to attend the meeting at the Biltmore. The reason I am writing is on the off-chance that one of you will be attending the meeting. I hope that you can bring up a similar issue which needs to be discussed: the feeding of shark and other creatures while diving and snorkeling. I believe this to be a horrible practice, and I know that it is common in certain areas of Belize. At Glover's Reef where we own Long Caye and operate water sport trips that include diving and snorkeling, we do not feed the fish or other creatures under any circumstances. This allows you to observe the natural behavior of the animals. Once they learn that humans can be counted on for food, you will never again be able to observe the natural behavior of these creatures, and that would certainly be true also with dolphins in a pen. Also, imagine fish trained this way to swim up to humans, and these humans happen to be carrying a speargun!

My first experience with fish that were being fed regularly was in Australia. In 2001 I went over there specifically to the see the 'other' reef. I was very exciting the first time I walked into the water for my first Great Barrier Reef snorkel experience. I was alone, as the snorkel spot was in a designed area next to my lodge, and as I swam I quickly noticed all the fish in the area following me, including a 4-foot Maori wrasse. It was very creepy, I could practically hear the music of The Twilight Zone playing, and my heart started beating noticably. It took several minutes to figure it out, but before I did I was absolutely dumbfounded why the fish in Australia acted this way. Later on, when I saw the fish being fed, I was further chagrined to see that they were feeding them Wonderbread. Not exactly a nourishing diet.

To empasize the comments of Jean-Michel Cousteau in the letter you sent, I have another personal story. Once while kayaking with tourists we were returning from a short kayak excursion near our island. Two dolphins swam up to our kayaks and began playing with the boats like we have all seen them do with larger, motor boats. There was a 15 year old girl in the group who asked "Are they tame?" "No", our guide answered, "they live here." This young American girl had apparently seen so many TV shows of trained dolphins that she could only imagine that they had been trained to swim up to us, even though we were 35 miles offshore and there was no enclosure anywhere around.

I hope that one of you can attend the meeting and maybe you will be able to bring up the issue of feeding the creatures. If that could be banned along with the dolphin pen, it would be a great step for the country of Belize.

Lucy Wallingford
Slickrock Adventures

Lan Sluder/Belize First
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
OP Offline
Another forwarded message:


... I was active in BTIA for many years as San Pedro's area rep and we were and are supporters of sustainable development for Belize. When the first "Dolphin Park" was proposed for Belize at Congrejo Caye, close to Ambergris Caye, the announcement came by way of a two page full colour advertisement in "Destination Belize" that was sold ( by an ad sales rep) unbeknownst to the to BTIA members, to a group of investors who were assured by the then Director of Tourism that this was a "good thing". It was supposedly a done deal. The uproar that followed was magnificent. BTIA
,BETA, BACONGO. The Tour Guides, The Dept. of Fisheries, The Audubon Society, Programme for Belize, The Belize Zoo and I'm cetain I have omitted a few - all spoke in opposition to the project. A dolphin park was not synonomous with a philosophy of ecotourism for the flora, fauna and human population of the country. And the project went away. I don't know why Theresa Parkey choses to travel this course to honour Hugh's memory. Her
foundation is notable, and Hugh's contributions to Belize need to be recognized and memorialized. This dolphin park is not a fitting tribute to
such a fine man, or to their wonderful accomplishments in Belize. Perhaps
she should be asked to further explain her thinking before this goes any
farther. It would be a shame to see her many contributions tarnished by the
outrage that is certain to follow.

Victoria Collins (formerly co-owner of the San Pedro Sun)

Lan Sluder/Belize First
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
OP Offline
Yeah, Chris, if even Haiti says no to dolphin trapping, imagine how that would make Belize look in the eyes of ecotravelers.

--Lan Sluder

Lan Sluder/Belize First
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
OP Offline
Another forwarded letter on dolphin jailing:


> Toni Frohoff, Ph.D.
> 321 High School Rd. NE, PMB 374
> Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 USA
> Ph: 206-780-2532/FAX: 206-780-5162
> [email protected]
> Ms. Birgit Winning
> Director, Oceanic Society Expeditions
> Fort Mason Center, Bldg. E, Room 230
> San Francisco, CA 94123
> September 22, 2004
> RE: Impacts of Dolphin Captivity in Belize
> Dear Ms. Winning,
> I am an independent marine mammal biologist writing to provide you with what
> I hope will be helpful information regarding the impacts of capture of dolphins for captive facilities and "swim-with-the-dolphin programs" in
> Belize. I have been studying dolphins for approximately 20 years. I conducted the first study of captive "swim-with-the-dolphin" programs and supervised the first research conducted on "petting/feeding" programs subsequently. I have been asked to inspect, and make recommendations
> about, captive marine mammal facilities by various government and non-government agencies around the world. Consequently, I have
> to the revision and implementation of legislation protecting captive and
> free-ranging marine mammals in several countries.
> Even if dolphins are obtained from other captive facilities rather than
> capturing them from the wild directly, Belize would still be contributing
> the capture of other dolphins, most likely from environmentally sensitive
> regions. As I will describe below, Belize would therefore be held
> accountable for contributing to - and supporting - an ecologically harmful
> and inhumane market for these animals and degrading the marine ecosystem
> other countries as well as its own. Most facilities do not have any, or
> only biased and unscientific, evidence of environmental non-detriment of
> dolphin captures. This makes such captures contradictory to sound
> management and conservation practices (please see below). Belize would be
> still be considered responsible for the ecological ramifications of
> contributing to an ecologically irresponsible market. This would be
> contradictory to it's current and highly regarded reputation as a country
> offering ecologically sensitive ecotourism and other sustainable
> environmental practices.
> Below, I summarize some of the ecological impacts of capturing or
> captive dolphins, captive dolphin welfare and survivorship, the extreme
> dangers that swimming with dolphins poses to humans, and the questionable
> quality of education that people receive in these programs.
> Ecological Impacts of Captive Dolphins
> 1) Pollution:
> Dr. Thomas Goreau (2004), President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, has
> conducted research that reveals the tremendous impact of dolphin
> on coral reefs. In Cozumel, Mexico, he concluded that "The bad news is
> if you go a few miles down to the coast to the dolphin attractions, a
> kilometer of reef has been overgrown by algae. It seems incredible that
> around 20 dolphins can be polluting more coral reef than thousands of
> ship passengers a day, but that is what we see. All the wild dolphins in
> Caribbean are now under threat of capture for tourist attractions, largely
> driven by the expansion of the cruise ship business. This is a serious
> threat to coral reefs near these proposed attractions as well as to the
> dolphin populations."
> 2) Dolphin Populations:
> Capturing dolphins from the wild can do far more than harm the individuals
> captured - it can threaten populations, many of which are already
> In fact, this is why concerns about captive marine mammals have not only
> been expressed by animal welfare advocates but also by conservationists
> population biologists. The capture of even a few animals can result in
> death or injury of many more dolphins, since the capture activities
> intensive harassment of a group or groups. In addition, it negatively
> impacts already depleted dolphin populations by removing breeding (or
> otherwise important) members from the group.
> Before any captures are permitted, wildlife managers at a minimum should
> first acquire adequate information on the targeted population. It appears
> that there has been insufficient research conducted in Belize waters and
> surrounding areas to determine that the removal of individual dolphins
> not have a negative impact on the ecosystem. Even if Belize were to
> purchase dolphins captured from other regions, unless those regions were
> able to demonstrate a negligible impact of the captures on their local
> dolphin populations, Belize would still be responsible for the capture and
> increased market demand for the dolphins from these poorly managed areas.
> The National Marine Fisheries Service in the United States acknowledges
> "The animals removed from the wild for permanent maintenance in captivity
> often represent only a proportion of the total take ['take' being defined
> under U.S. law as killing, injuring, or harassing] during a live capture
> operation" (NMFS 1989, p. 33). The capture of numerous orcas from the
> Southern population of resident orcas in the Pacific Northwest U.S. in the
> 1960's and 1970's, from which the population is still recovering is one
> dramatic and well-documented example of this (Wiles 2004).
> The New Scientist journal recently reported that the research of Drs. Davi
> Lusseau and Mark Newman University of Aberdeen, UK, and the University of
> Michigan, Ann Arbor, respectively, determined that ."Just a few genial
> dolphins keep dolphin societies together, and if they disappear, the
> cohesion of the pod collapses. That means that capturing wild animals,
> taking killer whales for displays in marine parks, for instance, could
> unforeseen consequences for their companions left behind. These results
> suggest that animal communities could be very vulnerable to the loss of a
> few key individuals." (Buchanon 2004).
> As the IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group's 2002-2010 Conservation Action
> Plan for the World's Cetaceans states, "Removal of live cetaceans from the
> wild, for captive display and/or research, is equivalent to incidental or
> deliberate killing, as the animals brought into captivity (or killed
> capture operations) are no longer available to help maintain their natural
> populations." "Live-capture activities involving bottlenose dolphins .
> taken place in various countries during recent years without adequate
> assessment of the wild populations and with little or no public disclosure
> of the numbers taken" (Reeves et al. 2003). The Plan also states "As a
> general principle, dolphins should not be captured or removed from a wild
> population unless that specific population has been assessed and it has
> determined that a certain amount of culling can be allowed without
> the population's long-term viability or compromising its role in the
> ecosystem. Such an assessment, including delineation of stock boundaries,
> abundance, reproductive potential, mortality, and status (trend) cannot be
> achieved quickly or inexpensively, and the results should be reviewed by
> independent group of scientists before any captures are made. Responsible
> operators (at both the capturing end and the receiving end) must show a
> willingness to invest substantial resources in assuring that proposed
> removals are ecologically sustainable" (Reeves et al. 2003, p. 17).
> Interactive programs are especially problematic in this regard because
> female dolphins are typically preferred for these programs (females are
> typically less aggressive and sexual towards humans than male dolphins).
> Many studies of wildlife populations (e.g., Oldfield 1988) have
> that removal of females can produce seriously harmful consequences to
> populations over the long term.
> 3) Other Ecosystem Affects:
> Furthermore, removal of dolphins from the wild can be harmful to the
> ecosystem and result in unknown ecological ramifications, especially when
> little is known about the populations, such as is the case for much of
> Belize and the Wider Caribbean region (Ward et al. 2001). Dolphins, as
> top-level predators, play an important and beneficial role in the health
> fish populations, the value of which we are only beginning to understand.
> Dolphin predation on fish species which are predators of other types of
> may likely play an important role in the health of fisheries.
> Captivity
> It is clearly debatable whether empirical evidence demonstrates that
> dolphins can be "successfully" held in captivity. In fact, Rose (2004;
> has stated, "In short, the preponderance of hard evidence should lead to
> conclusion that captivity and its related practices are ethically and
> scientifically unjustified". And a recent paper in "Nature" assessed the
> well-being of 35 species of wide-ranging terrestrial carnivores and
> determined that "the keeping of naturally wide-ranging large carnivores
> should be either fundamentally improved or phased out" (Clubb and Mason
> 2003, p. 473). Since most marine mammals share the traits that the
> used to determine inclusion of species in this study, these
> could reasonably be applied to marine mammals as well.
> (1) Dolphin Welfare and Survivorship in Captivity:
> Capture from the wild and transport are inarguable stressful and dangerous
> for dolphins. Physiological indications of stress associated with capture
> and captivity include elevated adrenocortical hormones (St. Aubin and
> 1988; Thompson and Geraci 1986). And Small and DeMaster (1995a) found
> mortality rates of captured bottlenose dolphins shoot up six-fold
> immediately after capture (and did not drop down to the base captive

> mortality rate for up to 35-45 days).
> Two of the most recent and well-respected studies (Small and DeMaster
> and Woodley et al. 1997) determined that survivorship rates in bottlenose
> dolphins through the mid-1990s remained persistently lower than in
> free-ranging animals (although the differences were no longer
> significant). Although this indicates that dolphin husbandry has improved
> over the years, it has not done so to the extent that dolphins live longer
> in captivity. This is notable, considering that one would expect that
> captive dolphins would live longer because of access to veterinary care,
> consistent food availability, and protection from natural predators and
> other threats faced in the wild (Rose 2004). Further, most of the
> facilities examined in these analyses were in North America where captive
> standards have generally been better and regulations stricter than in
> countries. And new facilities with less experienced staff are generally
> regarded as having reduced husbandry success with their dolphins as
> to facilities with more experienced staff.
> Consequently, the data indicate that the stress of captivity is a
> significant reason why cetaceans don't live as long or longer than their
> wild counterparts. As discussed in detail in various publications (e.g.,
> Mayer 1998; Frohoff 1993, 2004; St. Aubin and Dierauf 2001; Sweeney 1990;
> Curry 1999), capture and captivity has often been related to physiological
> and mental stress in cetaceans that has often been associated with
> behavioral abnormalities, illness, diminished immunological response, and
> mortality.
> The severe lack of environmental control in sea pens can often make them
> wholly inadequate and poorly suited for the maintenance of dolphins. For
> example, recent hurricanes in the Carribean have had serious consequences
> for captive dolphins, some of which have died violent and prolonged deaths
> (such as in La Paz, Mexico). Also, water temperature cannot be controlled
> in these pens in which dolphins may be forced to remain in shallow water
> with excessive exposure to the sun - resulting in unnaturally and
> dangerously high water temperatures from which the dolphins can die.
> quality also cannot be controlled in these pens. Captive dolphins can be
> forced to remain in more stagnant, shallow water adjacent to human
> that may contain considerably higher concentrations of marine contaminants
> than they would encounter in the wild. Such exposure to marine pollution
> can certainly lead to illness and death.
> Unnatural exposure to loud sounds - airborne and underwater - can also
> result in stress and even mortality in dolphins. The sensitive hearing of
> dolphins is well documented and numerous studies have documented the
> effects that anthropogenic sound can have on them. Sound travels quickly
> through water and both airborne (i.e., aircraft) and underwater (i.e.,
> craft) sounds can become amplified in water by reflecting off the shallow
> ocean floor. When dolphins cannot remove themselves from prolonged or
> sounds, physiological stress and damage can result.
> (2) Research on "Swim-with-the-Dolphin" Programs:
> Only three studies of captive swim programs have been published and one
> study of petting/feeding pools has been conducted and all three studies
> indicate that these programs are not humane for dolphins and can be
> dangerous for people. My study, which was conducted at one facility in
> United States, found that captive dolphins directed behaviors towards
> swimmers that were related to stress and aggression (Frohoff 1993; Frohoff
> and Packard 1995). A second study conducted at four facilities in the
> United States observed similar high risk behaviors and found that captive
> dolphins frequently behaved submissively to swimmers even when the
> were small in stature, minimally mobile, and did not behave aggressively
> (Samuels and Spradlin 1995). These studies both observed obvious
> stress-related behaviors in dolphins that were related to potentially
> long-term negative physiological effects. We also note that these studies
> were carried out in U.S. facilities which are often considered to be
> superior to those found elsewhere in the world.
> Recently, a study on captive swim programs in New Zealand observed that
> dolphins spent significantly more time in a "refuge" area where human
> swimmers were prohibited during swim programs than during times in which
> there were no swimmers in the enclosure (Kyngdon et al. 2002). This
> indicates that the dolphins may have been actively avoiding swimmers.
> Consequently, all of the studies conducted of these programs observed
> various stress-related behaviors indicating that these programs may have
> both short- and long-term negative effects on the participating dolphins.
> Research on petting/feeding programs also determined that the welfare of
> dolphins - as well as humans - is seriously compromised in these programs
> (Frohoff 2003; Maas 1999). As a result, the authors of this study
> recommended that all interactive programs involving public feeding and
> touching captive marine mammals be prohibited. They noted that Italian
> government standards prohibit the feeding and swimming (any physical
> contact) with captive dolphins by the public, and the Brazilian standards
> prohibit the feeding of captive dolphins by the public as well.
> (3) Dangers to Humans:
> There have been many highly publicized human injuries - and even deaths -
> incurred through swimming with dolphins. Marine mammals are wild animals
> and unpredictable, even when well trained. There is also a very real
> potential for disease transmission to humans. Thus, interacting with
> captive dolphins poses a true danger to humans.
> Even trainers with extensive experience with the dolphins with whom they
> have worked have been seriously injured (Norris 1967; Defran and Pryor
> 1980). In the most serious documented case, a free-ranging bottlenose
> dolphin in Brazil killed one man and hospitalized another who were
> with the animal (Santos 1997). There have been two recent incidents in
> which people, one of them, the animals' trainer, were killed as a result
> being in the water with captive orcas (also members of the dolphin
> And it is certainly not uncommon for members of the public to become
> from swimming with captive dolphins or even interacting with them at the
> poolside (NMFS 1990; Frohoff 1993; Frohoff and Peterson 2003; Maas et al.
> 1999; Samuels and Spradlin 1995). The actual number of injuries suffered
> people interacting with captive marine mammals is not known since their
> occurrence is often not reported. However, existing reports include
> incidences of broken bones, internal injuries, and serious wounds
> hospitalization. In addition to the 18 or so injuries serious enough to
> documented by the National Marine Fisheries Service in U.S.
> swim-with-the-dolphin programs within a five year period, I personally
> witnessed many more injuries than those reported during this time.
> Even when people interact with dolphins from outside of the pool, they can
> often become injured. In a recent report (WDCS and HSUS 2003), Biting the
> Hand that Feeds: The Case Against Dolphin Petting Pools, it was written
> "...[M]edia reports and historic government records reveal a range of
> serious injuries caused to visitors by captive dolphins in interactive
> programs, including cuts, bruises, broken bones, bites and rakes. Because
> the sheer size of dolphins and their concentration in petting pools,
> movements and occasionally aggressive competition for food can put
> at risk of physical harm."
> Disease transmission is also a serious concern, since dolphins carry
> diseases that can be transmitted to humans (and conversely, as well) (Buck
> and Schroeder 1990; Geraci and Ridgeway 1991; NMFS 1990; Mazet et al.
> (4) Education or Benefits?
> Since it is not uncommon for captive dolphins to exhibit aggressive and
> sexual behaviors towards people, people interacting with them (especially
> children) can have very negative experiences. Additionally, visitors have
> also expressed that viewing - or having contact with - marine mammals in
> captivity is sometimes a disturbing experience for them because of their
> concerns for the animals living in confined and unnatural conditions
> Kellert 1991; 1999).
> Providing the public with opportunities to touch or feed marine mammals
> also result in harassment and dangerous behavior towards wild dolphin
> populations. As Trevor Spradlin of the National Marine Fisheries Service
> points out, "There is growing concern that feeding pools, swim programs,
> other types of interactive experiences with marine mammals in captive
> display facilities may perpetuate the problem of the public feeding and
> harassment of marine mammals in the wild .. " (Frohoff 2003, p. 67).
> With regard to dolphin-assisted therapy, there does not appear to be any
> peer-reviewed research demonstrating that interaction with dolphins is any
> more therapeutic than interaction with domestic animals. Dolphin-assisted
> therapy is highly controversial in the scientific community. Perhaps it
> only more lucrative and glamorous than therapy involving domestic animals.
> Given the risks to human and dolphin participants, many researchers
> the justifiability of dolphin-assisted therapy and have written critiques
> claims made about these programs (e.g., Marino and Lilienfeld 1998;
> and Rowan 1991). Dr. Betsy Smith, a founder of dolphin-assisted therapy,
> said, "People would never throw their child in with a strange dog, but
> they'll throw them in with a strange dolphin. What you are looking at are
> vulnerable people and vulnerable dolphins" (Smith 2003). Ironically, she
> has chosen to discontinue therapy using dolphins and now only works with
> teaches about domestic animals.
> Opportunity
> Because of the above data, as well as U.S. public concernof demonstration
> expressed by the public, there has not been a capture of dolphins from
> waters for public display since approximately 19891993. The governments
> several countries have already denied applicants permits to capture
> from the wild for public display. The public response to captures of wild
> dolphins has often resulted in tremendous controversy and international
> media coverage; examples in the United States include well-respected
> such as the NBC Nightly News, 20/20, Time Magazine, and the covers of the
> New York Times, and the the Washington Post.
> In conclusion, if dolphins are obtained from other captive facilities
> than capturing them from the wild directly, Belize would still be held
> responsible for contributing to and supporting ecologically harmful and
> inhumane practices - by degrading the environment of other countries, as
> well as it's own.
> Belize has an opportunity to continue to become increasingly recognized as
> progressive country with respect to environmentally responsible ecotourism
> and sustainable environmental practices. Rather than irreversibly
> its own natural resources (or that of other countries' waters), Belize has
> great potential to enhance them further while still allowing the public to
> appreciate them. As stated by Ward et al. (2001), "The marine mammal
> of the [Caribbean] region is diverse and has significant ecological,
> economic, aesthetic and amenity value to the countries of the Wider
> Caribbean. It is vital that these populations and their habitat are
> sustainable protection."
> I hope that this information may contribute to the recognition that
> capturing additional dolphins from the wild will not only be harmful to
> dolphins captured, but also to the wild population from which they would
> taken - and to the marine ecosystem as a whole.
> Sincerely,
> Toni Frohoff, Ph.D.
> Literature Cited
> Buchanon, M. 2004. Well-connected dolphins keep pods together. New
> Scientist, August 12, 183:12. .
> Buck, C.D. and Schroeder, J.P. 1990. Public health significance of marine
> mammal disease
> L.A. (ed.) Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine. CRC Press, Boca Raton,
> Florida.
> Clubb, R. and Mason, R. 2003. Captivity effects on wide-ranging
> Nature 425(2):473-474).
> Curry, B.E. 1999. Stress in mammals: the potential influence of
> fishery-induced stress on dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
> NOAA Technical Memorandum NOAA-TM-NMFS-SWFSC-260
> Defran, R. H. and Pryor, K. 1980. The behavior and training of cetaceans
> in captivity. Pages 319-364 in: Cetacean behavior: Mechanisms and
> (L. Herman, ed.). John Wiley and Sons, New York.
> Frohoff, T.G. 1993. Behavior of Captive Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops
> truncatus) and Humans During Controlled In-Water Interactions. Master's
> thesis, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.
> Frohoff, 2003. Appendix A: Interacting with captive dolphins. Pages
> 331-334 in Between Species: Celebrating the Dolphin-Human Bond. Sierra
> Books/University of California Press, Berkeley, California.
> Frohoff, T.G. 2004 (In press). Stress in Dolphins. In: Encyclopedia of
> Animal Behavior (Marc Bekoff, ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group, New York.
> Frohoff, T.G. and Packard, J.M. 1995. Interactions between humans and
> free-ranging and captive bottlenose dolphins. Anthrozo�s 8(1):44-54.
> Frohoff, T.G. and Peterson (eds.) 2003. Between Species: Celebrating the
> Dolphin-Human Bond. Sierra Club Books; San Francisco, California.
> Geraci, J. R. and Ridgway, S. H. 1991. On disease transmission
> between cetaceans and humans. Marine Mammal Science, 7.2: 191-193.
> Iannuzzi, D. and Rowan, A.N. 1991. Ethical issues in animal-assisted
> therapy programs. Anthrozoos 4(3):154-162.
> Kellert, S. 1991. Canadian Perceptions of Marine Mammal Conservation and
> Management in the Northwest Atlantic. Technical Report No. 91-04.
> International Marine Mammal Association, Guelph, Ontario.
> Kellert, S. 1999. American Perceptions of Marine Mammals and their
> Management. The Humane Society of the United States, Washington, DC.
> Kyngdon, D.J., Minot, E.O., Stafford, K.J. 2002. Behavioural responses of
> captive common dolphins Delphinus delphis to a 'Swim-with-Dolphin'
> programme. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 81(2): 163-170.
> Maas, B., Fisher, S., Williamson, C. Stark, and Simmonds, M. 1999.
> Behavioral patterns exhibited by captive dolphins at feeding/petting
> facilities. Pages 111-112 in: Abstracts of the 13th Biennial Conference
> the Biology of Marine Mammals, Maui, Hawaii.
> Marino, L. and Lilienfeld, S. 1998. Dolphin-Assisted Therapy: Flawed Data,
> Flawed Conclusions. Anthrozoos: 11(4).
> Mayer, S. 1998. A Review of the Scientific Justifications for Maintaining
> Cetaceans in Captivity. A Report for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation
> Society, UK.
> Mazet, J.A., Hunt, T.D., Ziccardi, M.H. 2004. Assessment of the risk of
> zoonotic disease transmission to marine mammal workers and the public:
> Survey of Occupational Risks. Final Report prepared for United States
> Marine Mammal Commission, Research Agreement Number K005486-01.
> National Marine Fisheries Service. 1989. Permit Policies and Procedures
> for Scientific Research and Public Display under the Marine Mammal
> Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act: A Discussion Paper.
> of Protected Resources and Habitat Program, Silver Spring, MD.
> National Marine Fisheries Service. 1990. A final environmental impact
> statement on the use of marine mammals in "swim-with-the-dolphin"
> Office of Protected Resources, Silver Spring, Maryland.
> Norris, K.S. 1967. Aggressive behavior in Cetacea. Pages 225-241 in:
> C.D. Clemente and D.B. Lindsley (eds.) Aggression and Defense: Natural
> Mechanisms. University of California Press: Berkeley.
> Oldfield, M. 1988. Threatened mammals affected by human exploitation of
> the female-offspring bond. Conservation Biology 2.3:260-274.
> Reeves, R.R., B.D. Smith, E.A. Crespo, and G. Notarbartolo di Sciara
> (compilers). 2003. Dolphins, Whales and Porpoises: 2002-2010 Conservation
> Action Plan for the World's Cetaceans. IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group,
> IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.
> (
> Rose, N.A. 2004. Captive cetaceans: The science behind the ethics.
> Unpublished document presented at the European Cetacean Society 18th
> Conference, Kolmarden, Sweden, 29 March.
> Samuels, A. and Spradlin, T. 1995. Quantitative behavioral study of
> bottlenose dolphins in swim-with-the-dolphin programs in the United
> Marine Mammal Science 11:520-44.
> Santos, M.C. O. 1997. Lone sociable bottlenose dolphin in Brazil: Human
> fatality and management. Marine Mammal. Science 13(2):355-346.
> Small, R. and DeMaster, D.P. 1995a. Survival of five species of captive
> marine mammals. Marine Mammal Science 11:209-226.
> Small, R. and DeMaster, D.P. 1995b. Acclimation to captivity: a
> quantitative estimate based on survival of bottlenose dolphins and
> California sea lions. Marine Mammal Science 11:510-519.
> Smith, B. 2003. The discovery and development of dolphin-assisted
> Pages 239-248 in: Between Species: A Celebration of the Dolphin-Human Bond
> in Frohoff, T. and Peterson, B. (eds.). Sierra Club Books, Berkeley,
> California.
> St. Aubin, D.J. and Geraci, J.R. 1988. Capture and handling stress
> suppresses circulating levels of thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3)
> beluga whales, Delphinapterus leucas. Physiological Zoology
> St. Aubin, D.J. and Dierauf, L.A. 2001. Stress and marine mammals. Pages
> 253-271 in: CRC Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine. pp. 253-271. L.A.
> Dierauf and F.M.D. Gulland (eds.). CRC Press, New York and London.
> Sweeney, J. C. 1990. Marine mammal behavioral diagnostics. In: Pages
> 53-72 in: CRC Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine: Health, Disease, and
> Rehabilitation.(L. A. Dierauf, (ed.) CRC Press, Boston, Massachusetts.
> Thompson, C.A. and Geraci, J.R. 1986. Cortisol, aldosterone, and
> leucocytes in the stress response of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops
> truncatus. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science
> Thomas J. Goreau, T.J. 2004. Global Coral Reef Alliance Comments.
> Presented at the White Water to Blue Water Partnership Conference, Miami,
> Florida, March 22-26, 2004.
> Ward, N., Moscrop, A., and Carleson, C. 2001. Elements for the
> Development of A Marine Mammal Action Plan for the Wider Caribbean: A
> of Marine Mammal Distribution
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> United States (HSUS). 2003. Biting the Hand that Feeds: The Case Against
> Dolphin Petting Pools. Spring, Investigative Report, Spring, 2003.
> Wiles, G. J. 2004. Washington State status report for the killer whale.
> Washington Department Fish and Wildlife, Olympia.
> Woodley, T.H., Hannah, J.L., and Lavigne, D.M. 1997. A comparison of
> survival rates for captive and free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops
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Lan Sluder/Belize First
Joined: Apr 2004
Posts: 381
Good and interesting information, Lan. Thanks for sharing! Count my vote against it, if it counts.

Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 105
I find the idea of dolphins being held in captivity very disturbing, and I hope people make a loud noise to keep this activity out of Belize. The only thing I can do at this level is to refuse to participate in swimming with captive dolphins, as I have in Mexico in years past.

I also agree with you, Lan, that feeding the fish during snorkeling or diving destroys our ability to interact with them in their natural environment. I was on a dive where a diver was bit unintentionally by a grouper, and I was none too happy about being with someone who was bleeding. I'm sure it wasn't fun for the grouper either. In another dive experience in the U.S., we dove in an area where people evidently habituated the fish to the feeding. When we showed up without snacks, the fish (little ones) started nibbling on us.

On my last trip to San Pedro, I specifically asked our divemaster not to bring chum along on our dives. In spite of my request, he did bring it on one dive, and my only recourse was to not participate in the feeding frenzy. I will be returning to San Pedro in the next month or so and will make my wishes known a little more loudly. If we all do our part, I believe things can change.

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