Against Plans To Open Dolphinarium In Gibraltar

A Facebook group has been made in order to protest against these plans. We believe it is wrong to keep dolphins in captivity for our amusement. Besides, tourists can already watch wild-living Common dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins and Striped dolphins in the Bay of Gibraltar.

So far the public seems to be unaware of these plans. However, if they go ahead, it will not only have a significant impact on a marine habitat protected by EU Law and on the captured dolphins themselves, but also on Gibraltar's infrastructure: Some of the last remaining beaches would be turned into a tourist attraction. A lot of traffic could be expected to be channelled through residential areas and past local schools.

A Dolphin's Life In a Dolphinarium

Opposed to public opinion, dolphins in dolphinariums do not live in a protected environment. True, apart from performing tricks, they might also be of therapeutical value to humans in a "swim with the dolphins" experience, but the costs are high: As highlighted by GONHS on the facebook page, it has to be taken into account that half of all captured dolphins die within the first two years of captivity; survivors last an average of five years; the average life span of a dolphin in the wild is 45 years.

Have a look at the following trailer, Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. It follows a high-tech dive team on a mission to discover the truth about the international dolphin capture trade: The Cove Trailer.

More And More Voices Against Dolphinarium In Gibraltar

Yesterday, our sister charity GONHS launched a facebook group against the proposed dolphinarium in Gibraltar. Meanwhile, the group has more than 600 members. Today, the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) has picked up on the issue and interviewed Dr Eric Shaw, Chairman of the Helping Hand Trust and Marine Section Head of GONHS.

"In answer to a parlimentary question this year, Deputy Chief Minister Joe Holliday confirmed, that the Government had recently received a full proposal for the establishment of a dolphinarium and other related leisure activities in Rosia Bay," said GBC News Presenter Susan Clifton Tucker, adding, that the Planning Commission has not yet received a respective application.

The Plan: 18 Dolphins, Nine Sea Lions, 3,000 Seats

Due to the little public knowledge of the issue, Stephen Neish interviewed Dr. Shaw, who said that GONHS was was approached by agents of Ocean Embassy last Friday: In a cross-continental meeting, the agents explained about their plans. According to their documents, said Dr Shaw, the dolphinarium would have a seating capacity of 3,000 people and feature 18 Bottlenose dolphins and nine sea lions.

Ocean Embassy intends to import these animals from the Asian market, said Dr Shaw. He stressed, that due to Ocean Embassy's statements, GONHS got the impression that the dolphins and sea lions have yet to be captured from the wild.

The Obstacles

Dr Shaw explained, that keeping dolphins in captivity would be a contradiction to the Nature Protection Ordinance. Anyone, he said, who wishes to import - and even breed - dolphins also would have to apply to the EU, as there a laws against respective abuse. Additionally, the proposed location, Rosia Bay, is a declared area of special interest.

When asked about possible arguments in favour of dolphinariums, Dr Shaw said, that of course scientists and veterinarians benefit from previous research about dolphins in captivity. Yet, to GONHS and Dr Shaw Ocean Embassy "appeared to be a commercial entity, interested in commercial enterprise" and had not carried out any of the research which it easily could have done.

The Fascination

Dr Shaw also highlighted that he understands anyone who is intrigued by the idea of dolphinariums, and "goes away with fabulous feelings of having been there with these large mammals that come from the sea. What they don't seem to understand is, that the dolphin they got the great feeling from, lives in captivity until the day it dies. And it came from the wild. How can we sanction this form of slavery? Because that is exactly what it is."

The Power Of The People

Asked whether he believes that protest like the one on facebook will prevent the construction of a dolphinarium in Gibraltar, Dr Shaw replied: "I believe, that in this particular day and age the groudswell will get so loud that it won't happen. If this was 35 years ago, I think, people would be clapping and skipping and dancing in the street and thinking it was wonderful. We've learned a lot in 35 years. What we have learned is that there is only one way to see wildlife - and that is out in the wild."

Proposed Dolphinarium in Gibraltar: Ocean Embassy Rejects Involvement

Ocean Embassy - a company associated with plans to set up a dolphinarium in Gibraltar - has written to our sister charity GONHS denying any participation in the project and accusing GONHS of being "false and intentionally misleading". Despite documentation of the company's involvement, GONHS said, "it is willing to accept at face value the statement that Ocean Embassy neither are the developers of the site nor own dolphinaria" but "rejects the allegations made by the company as to GONHS's intentions".

In a press release issued today, GONHS also highlighted that it will continue to campaign against the plans of building a dolphinarium in Gibraltar.
Since the plans have been made public, GONHS has received a lot of support in this campaign. Close to 3,000 people have joined the facebook group to protest against the proposal. Both opposition party PDP and the Gibraltar Federation of Sea Anglers have written respective press releases.

Read the Press Release in Full Length:

GONHS Confirms Its Opposition To Dolphinarium

Whoever Is the Developer

Ocean Embassy, a company based in Florida, and which is associated with proposals to set up a Dolphinarium in Gibraltar, has written to the Gibraltarian NGO stating that they are not the developers of the proposed Dolphinarium at Rosia Bay and that Ocean Embassy do not own dolphinaria.

It accuses GONHS of being "false and intentionally misleading”. While GONHS is willing to accept at face value the statement that Ocean Embassy neither are the developers of the site nor own dolphinaria, GONHS rejects the allegations made by the company as to GONHS's intentions.

In documents provided to GONHS by Europa Point Marine Village Limited (the company that is putting forward the proposal), these clearly state that they [EPMVL] and Ocean Embassy have “merged…in connection with its marine orientated activities both in Gibraltar and the US.” This and a number of other statements and facts gave GONHS the clear impression of Ocean Embassy’s activities and involvement. GONHS has decided to remove the words “led by Ocean Embassy” from the press release it posted on its website and has written to Ocean Embassy explaining its position on these matters.

In any event nothing that Ocean Embassy has stated in its letter to GONHS affects the substantive objections that GONHS maintains against the Dolphinarium. These remain and in GONHS’s view are unanswerable. As said in previous statements there are a number of good reasons why the Dolphinarium project should be stopped and no support given to it by Government.

GONHS will continue with its campaign, which it has a right to lead and maintain, and will continue to welcome support to its Facebook Group "Stop the Gibraltar Dolphinarium", as well to other activities that will be planned as long as the proposals remain on the table.

Ocean Embassy & Local Developer Comment On Dolphinarium Plans

Robin Levy of Europa Point Marine Village yet refused to comment to the Gibraltar Chronicle regarding details of the proposed dolphinarium. Mr Levy - whose company is understood to be responsible for the proposal - however told the newspaper that his Gibraltar based company "is negotiating with the Gibraltar Government in connection with certain proposals".

The statement of Mr Levy comes as a response to a comment of Ocean Embassy: After Ocean Embassy has accused our sister charity GONHS to be "intentionally misleading" in saying that Ocean Embassy was part of the scheme, the Gibraltar Chronicle spoke to Ocean Embassy's executive vice president, Mark Simmons. He told the paper that so far Ocean Embassy has only provided "information and expert guidance" to the company of Mr Levy.
However, Mr Simmons was quoted in the Chronicle saying "should the project move ahead, we [Ocean Embassy] would welcome formal involvement, contractually or otherwise, as we believe the modern mission of quality zoological display and engaging mainstream public in emotional motivation is one of the most critical conservation objectives of our time."

As highlighted in the Gibraltar Chronicle, the project "has yet to be presented publicly or approved by planners. Despite the controversy it has generated, very little is known publicly about what the project actually entails."

Our sister charity GONHS meanwhile is determined to continue the campaign to protest against the proposal. So far it is known, that the project entails to capture 18 bottle nose dolphins and nine sealions from Asian waters and build a dolphinarium in Rosia Bay seating 3,000 people. The site is a designated area of special interest, part of it forms one of Gibraltar's last remaining beaches.

Almost 3,000 people have joined the facebook group in opposition to the plans; the Gibraltar Federation of Sea Anglers (GFSA) and political party PDP likewise publicly stated their dismay.

Rising Number Of Requests For Fishing Regulations in Gibraltar

An illegal fishing net of 300 metres length which was discovered this week in Gibraltar's Admiralty Waters has once again led to requests for the immediate implementation of fishing regulations. Both opposition party PDP and the Gibraltar Federation of Sea Anglers (GFSA) have voiced their dismay in the Gibraltar Chronicle. The Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) meanwhile discussed the matter in its TV programme "Viewpoint".

Nets Pose Threat To Vessels and Biodiversity

The net has been removed for reasons of security and safety, the Gibraltar Chronicle wrote, explaining that a spokesman of the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the net "could have caused a nasty accident" - any vessel's propeller might have gotten stuck in the net. According to the newspaper hundreds of dead fish were caught in this net, a type which is illegal to use in Gibraltar due to the Nature Protection Act. The authorities are treating the net "as a found item", the Gibraltar Chronicle wrote.

Protest in the Media

It has hardly been two months since the GFSA went public with its concerns over the grave exploitation of the sea. It said that despite 16 years of queries to the Government neither fishing regulations nor marine protection laws have been implemented. Since the GFSA has started its campaign "Angling For Change" it has received manyfolded support from the political opposition, from our sister charity GONHS and from private citizens, who wrote respective letters to the editor (Gibraltar Chronicle).

Commenting on the net incident in Admiralty Waters the GFSA was quoted in the Gibraltar Chronicle: "If these infringements are taking place on a regular basis, as the reports received by the Federation suggest, then this points to a lack of control and regulation on the part of the pertinent authorities. GFSA challenges the pertinent authorities to do more to implement current legislation and agreements."

"The tragedy in this instance is that the Government has the necessary legislation in place, the Nature Protection Act, to prevent acts like these from taking place but have completely failed to ensure that this and other laws and agreements are being fully implemented. They have shown no leadership ... The size of this net is enormous ... Not only is it unlawful to lay this net inside Admiralty waters but the type of net used a gill net, is completely illegal. One thing is for certain it is totally indiscriminate and will kill any thing that it catches big or small ... This is very upsetting because of the unprecedented damage to fish stocks that this one incident has done within Admiralty waters."

Gavin Gafan, spokesman for the PDP was likewise quoted in the Gibraltar Chronicle saying: "Those laying such a net were not interested in fishing as a leisure pursuit. They were purely interested in commercial and indiscriminate fishing on a massive scale. This would deplete our stocks and play havoc with marine life ... It [Government] should also work with the policing authorities to ensure these are given the tools necessary to properly enforce our laws. We cannot continue like this. The Government needs to act and to act now."r Eric Shaw, acting as Marine Section Head of our sister charity GONHS. Even if there was no consensus as to how extensive and comprehensive the measures should be, everyone agreed that action had to be taken without further delay. The Government representative - who had to face criticism regarding that delay – said that a respective consultation document was "practically ready". Mr Hernandez stated, that Government doesn't agree on all requests of the GFSA and that the solution should take in consideration touristic and leisure-related aspects. Mr Hernandez also added, he would like to change the Nature Protection Act, which Dr Shaw said is comprehensive, and which GONHS would not like to see breaking down.

Politically Sensitive – 'Gibraltar Risks British Territorial Waters'

In a last statement before the end of the GBC discussion, Mr Wood stressed the international political impact of Gibraltar's governmental lack of marine protection: "From the EU-point of view and with our neighbours pressuring them, we have to be seen as reckless with our waters. And we can risk losing the sovereignty of our waters to Spain because they can accuse us of not controlling them properly. That is my line."

Mr Ramos added: "I would actually expand on what you have just said. We have been in consultation with the Government for 14 years and they've done nothing about it. Like we all know, the situation is now that Spain has become aware that Gibraltar is a free for all: fishing, diving, anchorage. So they have assumed the responsibility to control our marine environment. And now the Gibraltar Government and the British Government have to go to the European Court to reverse that. Had they listened to us that wouldn't have happened."

Net Fishing: No Singular Incident

Taking part in GBC's discussion panel Mr Wood said, that he comes along those illegal fishing nets quite often. He added, that those nets pose a grave thread to divers, especially in murky waters, when you cannot see further than an arm's length. Dr Shaw added, that it is a miracle that so far these nets have not caused a fatality.

To our charity these nets are far more familiar than we would like them to be: In the 1990's they were responsible for multiple dolphin mutilations: In an international campaign our charity could expose Spanish long line and net fishermen, who simply cut of the dolphin's body part, which accidently got entangled in their nets. Due to the campaign these days there are not as many dead dolphins on the shorelines as before, but occasionally you still find endangered species who have died in fishing nets or long lines, among them dolphins and turtles.