Dolphin Cove protest outside Parliament

Observer staff reporter

Friday, March 22, 2019

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MEMBERS of the Discovery Bay Community Development Committee (CDC) on Tuesday staged a protest metres from Parliament demanding that the Andrew Holness-led Administration withdraw its approval for the construction of a new Dolphin Cove attraction in Discovery Bay, St Ann.

The protesters — whose movements were restricted by the police to the corner of Duke and Sutton streets in downtown Kingston — were hoping to get the attention of Prime Minister Holness ahead of his budget presentation in the House of Representatives. However, his security detail took a different route.

According to president of the CDC, Lee Arbouin, who spoke with the Jamaica Observer, the Government has granted a restricted permit for a new Dolphin Cove attraction at the Puerto Seco Beach development, despite objections raised by scientists of The University of The West Indies Marine Lab, Jamaica Environment Trust, the CDC, and the Fishermen's Co-op of Discovery Bay about the construction of a captive dolphin facility.

“We are hosting this protest because we want to raise awareness of ministers in Government and other members of Government to the plight of Discovery Bay. Discovery Bay is a beautiful bay that has been desecrated. [The current proprietor] took over Puerto Seco a couple of years ago and he's done a wonderful job with Puerto Seco... and he has extended this to include a dolphin cove, which is a disaster, environmentally, to the reef, to the seagrass, and to human beings,” said Arbouin.

The CDC president is also concerned that the waste from the sea creatures will likely pollute the bay as there is little forward movement in bays to quickly get rid of contaminants.

“Because of the water circulation it will stay in the bay; it will damage the bay and we, the people, will soon not be able to swim because it will be polluted. So our children will have nowhere to swim; our elderly will have nowhere to swim; and so we are saying to the people, 'Stand with us and make your voices heard!'

“We have had 21,000 signatures to our petition saying that we do not want dolphins in the bay. No other petition has had that, and the Government has still ignored us and gone ahead with it. This is not a Government for the people; this is a Government for the rich,” the president said.

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) officially launched the Jamaica House Petition portal in 2017.

The portal was created to give citizens the opportunity to petition the Government on matters of national importance.

OPM said it would consider petitions submitted by local groups and members of the public as part of its national consultation approach.

It also stated that if a petition gathers 15,000 signatures in 40 days the Government would review the petition, and if it complies with agreed standards OPM would issue an official response.

Meanwhile, Arbouin said members of the CDC were forced to cut their activities short at the bay when two whales were reportedly spotted heading towards them.

“On Sunday, a couple of people that belong to our group were on the beach and they saw two, could be orcas or whales, coming and circle the pens, sniffing and trying to get in pens. Now, we are told that orcas do eat dolphins, so they were probably trying to get to the dolphins. People ran out of the bay and that is what is happening, because now you have the pollution of the bay and now you're also going to have the situation where people are going to be scared of going in there with their children not knowing when predators are going to be coming into the bay,” she said.

Orcas, or killer whales, are the largest of the dolphins and one of the world's most powerful predators. They feast on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales, employing teeth that can be four inches long.

Member of Parliament (MP)for St Ann North Western Dr Dayton Campbell, who was also present during the protest, said opposition to the move stems from advice given by marine biologists.

“They have said, internationally, it's being phased out. I think it's only in Jamaica and China it is still being done. It causes trauma to the dolphins when they are in captivity. There was a paper which spoke to them actually committing suicide. The other thing is that the waste that they produce, I'm told, is about 40 pounds each day. That contaminates the bay and, because of how the bay is, it's not going to run off as freely. So, it's going to pollute the area, the fish sanctuary is going to be destroyed, persons are going to be swimming in the faeces of the dolphins, and it's going to destroy flora and fauna,” the MP said.

“What has gone awry is that, based on the law, they're supposed to do consultations and all of these things. None of that was done prior to granting the licence to the persons who put the dolphins in the bay. So with all of these issues that is why we don't support it,” Campbell added.

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