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."

Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society Argues Against Dolphinarium In Gib

Our sister charity GONHS has received further backing in its opposition to the proposal of a dolphinarium in Gibraltar: The Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) gave details on the harmful effects confinement has on dolphins.

Read the statement in full length:

Statement by WDCS as Published by GONHS

WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, is very concerned about the proposal to establish a dolphinarium at Rosia Bay in Gibraltar. Dolphins are highly intelligent, free-ranging carnivores who suffer greatly from the effects of confinement and as a result suffer from stress, breeding problems and premature death as well as behavioural problems that can result in aggression between themselves and towards humans. This is important given the proposal to include a swimming with dolphins programme at Rosia Bay. While dolphinariums may claim they are important for education, we believe that seeing whales and dolphins in captivity can be miseducational, with educational messages taking second place to entertainment in circus-style performances and up-close encounters, where visitors' desire for interaction appears to override any educational benefit.

We are concerned that wild-caught dolphins will be imported to Gibraltar for the Rosia Bay development. Currently, captures of wild dolphins take place in Japanese, Solomon Islands, Cuban and Russian Federation waters. These captures are of serious concern to the scientific community and none of these countries are in a position to make non-detriment findings for the export of captured animals, as required by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. In Japan, dolphins are captured in drive hunts, a particularly cruel form of hunting in which pods of dolphins are rounded up out at sea and driven towards the shore where some are selected for aquariums and the rest slaughtered for meat. These hunts have been condemned by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which has called on its members not to source from them. Furthermore, imports of dolphins into the European Union are prohibited under EU CITES legislation for primarily commercial purposes. A dolphinarium, displaying animals to the public and charging an admission fee, would constitute a primarily commercial purpose.

Captive-born dolphins are still wild animals. In the wild these animals can travel 40 to 100 kilometres a day, they have intricate social structures and are highly intelligent. Some species have been found to have developed 'culture', in the passing down through the generations of specialised behaviour and adaptations to their environment. However, in captivity they are forced into relative idleness in an artificial environment where their behaviour is controlled and subdued by humans.

They are made to interact with species and individuals they would normally avoid in the wild which can induce ulcers and other illnesses and cause stress, discomfort, boredom, a weakened immune system and premature death. It can also provoke aggression between them, often leading to injuries and death. Such displays of aggression may also occur between dolphins and human visitors or trainers. The captive environment cannot accommodate the mental, physical and social needs of these animals and also fails to demonstrate their natural behaviour, complex lives, and the natural environment they inhabit. Despite the so called comforts of captivity and the food and veterinary care provided, many captives, including those born in captivity, die long before their wild counterparts. Furthermore, while the captive dolphin population remains unsustainable around the world, an import of dolphins from another dolphinarium may well result in further captures to restock the exporting dolphinarium.

Rosia Bay does not appear to be a suitable environment for the keeping of dolphins in captivity. The Straits of Gibraltar are renowned for their strong winds and currents and is the second busiest shipping lane in the world. The area is heavily industrialized and has been subject to morbillivirus epidemics among local wild dolphin populations in recent years.

Other countries, including Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica and Croatia have recently taken steps to safeguard the future of cetaceans threatened by live captures and confinement in captivity by implementing prohibitions on capture, trade and captivity of these animals. We believe these are the right steps to take to conserve and protect the world's whales and dolphins and that the Gibraltar authorities will be greatly praised throughout the conservation and scientific community for implementing such protective measures. Gibraltar is a popular destination for wild whale and dolphin watching. T

55 Fishermen Face Fine for Illegally Fishing in Gibraltar

Within three weeks the Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) has reported on 55 anglers who had been fishing illegally from Gibraltar’s beaches; all fisherman now face a fine, the Gibraltar Chronicle wrote today, adding that only three of them were locals.

"The operation comes against the background of concern among local amateur anglers about the impact on the natural environment of unregulated fishing by locals and Spaniards alike", the Chronicle wrote, adding that according to Gibraltar's seashore rules, dated 1968, fishing is prohibited from most of Gibraltar's beaches.

In April the Gibraltar Federation of Sea Anglers (GFSA) had gone public with its concerns regarding the lack of marine protection and fishing regulations despite 16 years of queries to the Government. In its campaign "Angling for Change" it argues that something has to be done immediately to avoid the "destruction and decimation of all marine life".

During talks in May Government had promised to work on respective laws for a legislation in autumn. As the relevant consultation paper had not been made public by the end of June as promised by Government, "Angling for Change" visited all political parties to present them with a petition signed by more than 2000 locals. At that time the Chronicle wrote that it understood that this paper "is being finalised but ... it had not yet been published". Today the newspaper wrote that Government "said it would issue a consultation paper shortly."

Government Publishes Consultation Paper on Fishing

The Gibraltar Government, in conjunction with the Gibraltar Sports & Leisure Authority, yesterday has issued a Public Consultation Paper regarding the regulation of spear fishing, scuba diving and boating in Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Chronicle wrote today, adding that Government is interested in feedback from the community before legislative plans are finalised in autumn.

Among other regulations the Government proposes to introduce three-year licences for shore fishing, as well as a maximum of two rods or hand lines per angler, minimum catch sizes and the protection of some species, the Chronicle wrote.

It plans, that non residents will have to provide proof of identity and provision of an address and telephone number to obtain a licence, the Chronicle said, quoting the paper, which says: "It is thus proposed that licences are available to be issued to residents of all countries who either do not require a licence to enable residents of Gibraltar to undertake leisure fishing in their waters, or who place no legal or practical impediment to the issue of such a licence to residents of Gibraltar."

According to the Chronicle, copies of the consultation paper can be downloaded from the Government website on www.gibraltar.gov.gi or directly obtained in No.6 Convent Place; feedback can be sent to Mr J Hernandez, Chief Executive Officer, Gibraltar Sports & Leisure Authority until the 15th September 2010 (e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

GONHS: No Longevity for Dolphins In Capitivity

Last week Mr Clive Reed on behalf of Europa Point Marine Village Ltd. (EPMV) gave an interview to local radio station GBC, claiming that dolphins may live for longer when held in captivity. Our sister charity GONHS now has responded to this claim with a press release, contradicting it on the basis of research.

Read the press release in full length:

Dolphinarium – no questions answered

The latest statement issued last week by Mr Clive Reed on behalf of Europa Point Marine Village (EPMV) Ltd. is an outstanding attempt at disinformation and evasion which does not address any of the major points made by GONHS in its campaign, in particular in its statement last week.

It seems clear that neither Mr Reed nor indeed the recently created EPMV have any experience in any form of animal care or management and this lack of expertise comes across clearly in the statements made by the Company.

The claim that dolphins have extended lives in captivity is false. The claim that dolphins have a significant beneficial effect in therapy is disputed and there is absolutely no evidence that they do. Indeed, such interactions could in fact be dangerous.

The suggestion that EPMV will be able to fill 3000 seats every time the dolphins perform tricks, and keep the 3000 people for long enough to make the venture viable seems economically naïve. The claim of employing over 300 people is likewise unsupported and aimed at diverting attention from other facts. And yet they ask us, and the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society, to present evidence in our favour. Our evidence is in published journals (see the list of references of peer-reviewed papers given at the foot of this statement, and 'The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity', www.wspa-usa.org/pages/1348_the_case_against_marine_mammals_in_captivity.cfm).

The Chronicle quotes Mr Reed as saying that the dolphins to be brought to Gibraltar “will be of captive stock, therefore they will not be captured from the wild”. He does not say that they have been born in captivity, as “captive stock” includes dolphins captured in the past. Nor does he guarantee that the dolphins that would come to Gibraltar would not be replaced by others taken from the wild, hence fuelling demand for dolphin-capture. There are also important ethical considerations, regardless of the provenance of the animals, that Mr Reed has failed to address with his superficial arguments. The reader must consider whether the keeping of eighteen dolphins and seven sea lions, animals that in the wild range over hundreds of kilometres, within Rosia Bay strikes her or him as ethical.

GONHS has stated clearly that it does not object to other aspects of EPMV’s proposals, and so a more Gibraltar and wildlife-friendly facility that will offer employment could be proposed. Why is EPMV so intent on the dolphinarium? Why do they want to bring a large number of captive dolphins and sea lions, which some alarmingly refer to as “animal assets”, to Gibraltar, and do so whether or not the project will be economically viable?

GONHS notes that Mr Reed's statement appears to imply that EPMV Ltd. is involved in dolphinarium facilities in Florida. What facilities are these? To our knowledge EPMV do not own such facilities. Ocean Embassy (OE), the company providing EPMV with “professional services”, according to OE itself, “does not own or maintain any operating marine life parks”. Indeed, they threatened GONHS with legal action for suggesting this. GONHS once again asks the developers to come clean and state clearly who is behind the project, so that their credentials can be scrutinized openly.

Some of the other claims by EPMV are unbelievable and verge on being insulting to the intelligence of Gibraltar’s decision makers.

By stating that in captivity dolphins are protected from diseases and predation, Mr Reed is dismissing decades of conservation work by thousands of individuals and by governments and organisations around the world. Following his logic, all of these have been wasting their time protecting habitats, creating national parks, conducting species conservation programmes and promoting nature conservation. If we follow Mr Reed's warped logic, what should have been done is to round up all the animals and keep them safe from the harmful effects of living in nature by placing them in cages and pens! What an absolute lack of understanding of the natural world Mr Reed and EPMV Ltd. appear to have!

The most incredible statement is that “Captivity itself is not cruel – negligent care is”! Extending that logic, one must assume that we humans should have no objection to spending our lives encarcerated in our splendid new prison. There, we would be protected from harm, with no risk of car accidents or the other hazards of daily life in the wild, we would be fed at regular intervals, have easy access to medical care, and would have the added benefit of having occasional interaction with visitors who will be humbled by the experience. Please Mr Reed! Shame on you for believing that you'd convince the public with such arguments!


  • DeMaster, D. P. and Drevenak, J.K. 1988. Survivorship patterns in three species of captive cetaceans. Marine Mammal Science. Vol. 4, no 4, pp297-311
  • Duffield, D.A. and Wells, R.S. 1991. Bottlenose dolphins: comparison of census data from dolphins in captivity with a wild population. Soundings: 11-15. Spring.
  • Small, R.J. and De Master, D.P. 1995. Survival of five species of captive marine mammals. Marine Mammal Science 11(2): 209-226.
  • Woodley, T. H., Hannah, J.L. and Lavigne, D.M. 1994. A comparison of survival rates for captive and free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), killer whales (Orcinus orca) and beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas). International Marine Mammal Association Inc. Draft technical report no 93-01.
  • Wells, R.S. and Scott, M.D. 1990. Estimating bottlenose dolphin population parameters from individual identification and capture-release techniques. Report of the International Whaling Commission, Special Issue 12.
  • Olesiuk, P.F., Bigg, M.A. and Ellis, G.M. 1990. Life history and population dynamics of resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the coastal waters of British Columbia and Washington State. Report of the International Whaling Commission. Special Issue 12. pp 209-244.