Discovery Bay people step up fight against new Dolphin Cove

Staff reporter

Sunday, December 23, 2018

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OVER 16,000 citizens have signed an online petition so far, to forestall a restricted permit issued by the National Environment Planning Agency (NEPA) for a new Dolphin Cove attraction at the Puerto Seco Beach development in Discovery Bay, St Ann.

Public relations officer of the Discovery Bay Community Development Committee (CDC), Sharon Lewars, told the Jamaica Observer that residents are worried that the new attraction will restrict their access to the beaches along the bay, and so a minimum 2 5,000 signatures are being sought to send to NEPA in a bid to stop the project from being implemented.

“As far as the citizens of Discovery Bay are concerned, we have a beautiful bay, actually one of the most beautiful, and we have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world here in Discovery Bay. What they are proposing to do is to put dolphins a few feet from swimmers. This is a bay where the residents do a lot of swimming. We are no longer going to be able to do that because they are going to put these huge cages under water, so we won't be able to swim across the bay because they will be in the way,” Lewars said.

She added: “We don't believe Jamaica needs another Dolphin Cove after having five of them already, including two in Ocho Rios which is only a couple miles away from us. We are opposed to having any more Dolphin Cove, and we are very opposed to dolphins being kept in our bay and destroying marine life”.

The residents also voiced concern that a dolphin pen would have negative environmental impact on the bay, which has been a fish sanctuary since 2009.

President of the Discovery Bay CDC Lee Arboin challenged the rationale of having a dolphin pen in a fish sanctuary which, she said, has greatly improved marine life in the bay.

“The Fisheries Division are (sic) the ones who actually made the area a sanctuary. Since then it has recovered and fishermen catch much more just outside the Bay than they used to. Now if you have developed a sanctuary, how can you then be putting something that is going to go against everything that has to do with a sanctuary?” Arboin questioned.

Director of Fisheries Andre Kong told the Sunday Observer that he could not issue an official statement, pending full disclosure of the deliberations between the Fisheries Division, NEPA, and the owners of Dolphin Cove.

In a letter penned to NEPA and the prime minister's office in late November, residents voiced concern that dolphin waste will inhibit their use of the beach.

“We are extremely concerned with the proximity of the pens to our swimming areas, when the liquid excreta, which often floats on the surface, from four to eight dolphins, will first be carried by the current that we are all familiar with, right along our sea frontages,” said residents.

Marine ecologist and senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies Department of Life Sciences, Dr Mona Webber, told the Sunday Observer that excess nutrients from dolphin waste would increase algae bloom, thereby suffocating the coral reefs.

“It would be like adding fertiliser to the water”, Dr Webber said, adding that there are also concerns that a dolphin pen would affect the water quality of the bay.

“We are doing water quality monitoring now and we hope to be able to detect any changes in the water before dolphins are introduced. We would want them to wait before any increase in the number of dolphins is considered,” Dr Webber said.

Arboin said that although their concerns so far have been ignored, the residents are requesting a town hall meeting with NEPA and other stakeholders.

“We have already written to the prime minister, asking him to withdraw the permit and to begin the process of having proper talks with the locals. So we are hoping that there will be a town hall meeting where NEPA will be there, because Mr Knight at NEPA was the one who gave the permit. I wrote NEPA as soon as we found out that there was a proposal for a Dolphin Cove. We told NEPA that there were 226 people at our first public meeting stating categorically that we do not want a Dolphin Cove in Discovery Bay.

“The Fishermen Coop also wrote to them objecting to it, along with the Marine Lab of the University of the West Indies and Jamaica Environment Trust. And none of them have got a response. The permit was granted in October, and since then we have got no response to the objection. The community itself was not contacted,” Arboin said.

Following the launch of the 'Save Our Bay' petition in November, residents have also called foul, accusing NEPA for callous handling of the law for having issued the restricted permit without consulting with them and neglecting to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

“An EIA would have ensured that all stakeholders, including ourselves, the fishing community, the Marine Lab and the community at large, would have been invited for discussion.

“We understand that the time for objecting has passed, and we feel that although the letter of the law may have been followed, the spirit and intention of it, was not,” said one resident.

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