Private hearing held on proposed dolphin park

On Monday, June 23, 1997, Minister of Tourism and the Environment, Honourable Henry Young, Kevin Gonzalez, Director of Tourism, James Azueta of Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Fernando Delgado of the Xcaret Dolphin Park met with some of the members of the San Pedro Tour Guide Association and other environmental associations to discuss the proposed dolphin park to be located at Cayo Cangrejo. This report is at best, second hand, as the San Pedro Sun was not informed of this important community meeting, nor invited.

According to Daniel Guerrero, president of the local tour guides, the guides are 100% for the project, but not at the Cayo Cangrejo location. Most feel the area is too sensitive for a commercial project. The concern raised was due to the fact that the area is a natural nursery for fish. Other locations were suggested for development of the educational experience dolphin park.

A proposed development plan was presented and questions were asked regarding the project's infrastructure. According to Delgado, the solid waste will be taken from the caye by boat and deposited in the sewerage treatment plant in San Pedro. The facility's need for power will be supplied by solar installations and mosquito control will be accomplished by a biodegradable repellant (not a chemical) to ensure the food chain is not disturbed.

The transportation of visitors to the park will be solely in the hands of the local guides and boats. According to Minister Young, that requirement is cast in stone. He also said that phase II of the project which called for the building of accommodations was "dead".

Some dredging of the area will be necessary to provide side channels and a swimming area. Otherwise the visitors will use raised boardwalks which will ensure that the mangroves are undamaged. Questions were raised as to whether the project would require an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), the answer was negative, that a study was not needed. However, Azueta and other Fisheries personnel will visit the site and prepare a report for the next meeting which is scheduled in about two weeks (date unknown).

According to an article in this newspaper on June 13, 1997, in an interview with the project's developers, "... the first stage of the development will cost about 1 million U.S. dollars. The park will be built above water with several boardwalks and three main buildings; a restaurant, small gift shop, caretaker's quarters and a changing area for visitors. The plan is to have a San Pedrano staff, the organizers of the project will be from the Xcaret staff and will train locals to take care of the park and the dolphins. Local people will perform all of the construction."

The purpose of the park is not only to have people come to swim with the dolphins but to teach environmentally friendly principles to adults and children. The educational programs will teach children and adults to respect the dolphins and they will be able to see what wonderful creatures they are up close.

A letter to the editor was also received expressing one opinion about the location:

To the editor,
Last night I attended a meeting about the proposed Mexican owned Dolphin Park at Cangrejo Caye. After the opening comments from Tourist Minister, Henry Young and Director of the Tourist Board, Kevin Gonzales, they implied that government approval was mere formality. This was news to everybody in attendance, since this was the first public meeting to be held concerning this matter. This meeting was called because of concerns by the Tourist Guide Association.

All of the attendees that made comments, approved of the concept of the project, but all were unanimous in their disapproval of Cangrejo Caye as the name. Cangrejo Caye is a vast nursery for fish, lobster and other marine creatures. No environmental impact study has been done on this project. No one knows what the proposed dredging, construction and entrapment of a number of dolphins in a confined area of Cangrejo Caye will do to the fragile ecosystem of the area.

Minister Young says that no impact study is needed. Mr. Delgada from Mexico says that there will be no harm done. I am sure these two gentlemen mean well, but they are not experts on this matter, and expert advice is what we need. I am sure there are other suitable locations for this park near to San Pedro, that would have less impact on the environment. Government should proceed slowly on this project and not ram it down our throats, just so a project can be done by December.
/s/ Henry Beissner

San Pedro Sun

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