GONHS: 'No Justification For Dolphinarium In a 21st Century Gibraltar'

Last week, Europe Point Marine Village Limited (EPMVL) publicly defended its proposal of a dolphinarium and accused our sister charity GONHS of being both "irresponsible" and motivated by "private commercial interests" in its opposition to the project. Today, GOHNS has issued a press release in response.

The Press Release In Full Length

"As the Facebook Campaign run by the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) against proposals for a dolphinarium in Gibraltar surpasses an astonishing 4000 members, and the Government in Parliament recently made clear its opposition to wild caught dolphins being used in any such project in Gibraltar, the Society has been amused by the weak attempt made in the Gibraltar Chronicle last week by EPMV, the company backing the scheme to justify their unjustifiable project. The arguments used are disrespectful of all the many people in Gibraltar and abroad who seriously and honestly, and for good reason, oppose their plans.

The statement mentions one member of GONHS Council and accuses him and GONHS itself of irresponsibility. This is totally rejected. GONHS members, when speaking on behalf of the organisation and following GONHS policy, have the full support of GONHS, and neither GONHS nor any of its members have acted irresponsibly. On the contrary, GONHS has a duty to point out the many reasons why a dolphinarium should not be established in Gibraltar.

The suggestion that GONHS is seeking to "spin fear" "particularly to children" is ludicrous. The Company clearly is not aware of GONHS's history and track record of educational work. None of the activities or actions of GONHS in this campaign have been directed at children. EPMV have irresponsibly made an accusation which they have not substantiated. If any of the activities they and their associates are linked with are such that they may cause an impression of fear or repulsiveness in members of the public, children or otherwise, then it is them and not GONHS that deserve to be condemned for it.

The Company is quoted as stating that GONHS "should act responsibly", specifically in advising Government, implying that it is not doing so. This is another ludicrous claim. GONHS has been making discreet, responsible contact with Government on the matter for some time now, and only made its campaign public when it appeared that despite this the developers were intent on proceeding. Advisers, whether official or unofficial, have a duty to advise clearly and professionally, without fear or favour, and to state what they legitimately feel, whether or not it is what the advisee, or anybody else, may want to hear. GONHS invariably does this and has been providing sound, well-researched advice to successive Governments for decades. Moreover, GONHS is not just an advisor, but an independent NGO that is regularly consulted by Governments and other entities.

According to the Chronicle report, the promoters claim that the GONHS-led campaign aims "to protect local private commercial interests" and "is not in the interest of Gibraltar". GONHS does not know what these private commercial interests may be. GONHS certainly has none. Its only interests are the protection of the natural environment. Europa Point Marine Village Limited cannot make such allegations without evidence. Interestingly, the Company’s statement can be taken to imply that they feel there may be some negative effect on whatever “private and commercial interests” they are referring to. The company should therefore state clearly who they believe is going to be adversely affected if the project goes ahead. Moreover, what is not in the interests of Gibraltar is the setting up of an archaic facility that would bring widespread condemnation from around the world and bring Gibraltar into disrepute.

In trying to justify the use of Rosia Bay for their scheme, EPMV in fact ironically highlights several of the problems with this site. There is no way anyone can guarantee that, if significant oil pollution occurs in certain weather conditions, Rosia Bay will not be affected even if separated from the sea by suspended netting and booms. In any case such booms will not protect the area from pollutants dissolved within the sea water. Nor will they protect the rich marine life of the surrounding area from possible contamination from within the proposed dolphin and sea lion pen.

In its statement, the Company tries the usual distraction of seemingly promising an unbelievable number of jobs. This would of course first depend on the operation being financially viable. Despite their belief that it would attract many visitors, the developers present no market research to establish this. They seem to be unfamiliar with the way that tourism operates in Gibraltar and seem also to under-estimate the negative effect on this tourism that the adverse publicity that Gibraltar would get from having a dolphinarium would bring.

In any case, there are many activities that would generate employment that would not be tolerated in Gibraltar because they would be illegal, immoral or unethical. For example, a bullring would generate employment, but surely would be rejected outright by the Community and the Government!
More directly, there are many other possible projects for the area, including some promulgated by the Company, that would be acceptable and generate jobs without there having to be a dolphinarium.

The company’s claim to vast experience in other parts of the world is no reassurance. Europa Point Marine Village, itself has to our knowledge not got any experience in managing dolphinaria. If, despite recent claims by another entity that it was not involved, EPMV now has experts from elsewhere as part of its team, it should publicly state who they are so that their track record can be openly scrutinized. In any case these experts may well treat "their" dolphins very well but that does not mean that it justifies new operations that will place an increasing demand for captive dolphins. Fighting bulls are well cared for before they enter the arena. The reference to their credentials in dealing with strandings is irrelevant as stranded dolphins are extremely rare in Gibraltar and there already exist protocols for dealing with these.

Most significantly, the Company’s statement does not answer any of our main points including those regarding the justification for captivity of these animals, issues related to longevity, source of dolphins, etc.

GONHS sees the statement, as reported, as a feeble attempt to try and justify what has no justification in a 21st Century Gibraltar which should be heading in a very different direction to the one that the embarrassment of setting up a dolphinarium would tell the world it is heading.
The Society will in future not tolerate remarks made by the Company which it considers could harm GONHS' hard-won international reputation for integrity and excellence."