Opinion: Dolphin pool

POSTED: 06/29/12 1:03 PM

When it comes to choosing between what is right and what is economically beneficial the Eastern Caribbean still tends to opt for the fast buck. In St. Maarten we have seen that turning the Emilio Wilson Estate into a tourist attraction, has defeated the empty political promise to preserve it for future generations.
The past years there has also been quite something to do about the rumored arrival of a dolphinarium. While so far this project has not materialized, dolphin defenders remain on full alert.
To add insult to injury, the parliament of St. Maarten has shown that it prefers to hang on to outdated traditions like cock fighting for no other reasons than, well, it has always been a tradition. That is also prohibited until this very day, or at least until the new criminal code obtains the governor’s signature and subsequently the nod of approval from the Constitutional Court – if the Ombudsman sees fit to submit the code to this court for scrutiny.
The dolphin defenders must have read yesterday with a lot of dismay that a dolphin pool is coming to a theater near us, namely Anguilla. The government that sits at a twenty minute boat ride from St. Maarten has granted Dolphin Discovery a license to operate a 6, 000 square meter dolphin pool at Blowing Point. The pool will become the home to four dolphins and according to Dolphin Discovery it is ready to start operations in the second week of next month.
One may well wonder whether the choice for tourist attractions that involve animals reflects a lack of imagination on the side of the Anguillan government. Were there really no better ideas to make the island a bit more attractive to a slice of the tourism market? As far as employment is concerned the project is of relatively minor importance: 14 jobs.
This is of course still better than no jobs at all, but if you asked the dolphins who will be confined to the pool in Blowing Point, they would rather be free, as they ought to be.
Though the project will give especially children an opportunity to see dolphins from up close, it also sends a wrong message, namely that it is okay to keep animals imprisoned for the sole purpose of entertaining human beings.
We’re curious to see what kind of reactions the Dolphin Discovery project will trigger in Anguilla. It could be a valuable lesson for St. Maarten’s future as a prime tourism destination. Do not expect too much: when the economy was booming and there was a choice to be made between development and responsible management of the island’s natural resources, the concrete farmers beat the environmentalists hands down.

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