From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2004:
halted in Antigua & Barbuda,
corrupt officials hit in Mexico
Antigua & Barbuda; SINGAPORE;
MEXICO CITY; TAIJI
Resolving that, "The permission granted to Mr. John Mezzanotte to capture twelve
dolphins annually from Antigua waters is herby revoked," the Cabinet of Antigua &
Barbuda on February 11 signaled that at least some small island nations which have
historically favored marine mammal exploitation may be rethinking their position.
"Further it is stated," the cabinet resolved, "that any importation or
exportation of dolphins into and from Antigua and Barbuda be in strict compliance with all
international obligations of Antigua and Barbuda."
Caribbean developer John Mezzanotte is among the promoters of Dolphin Fantaseas, a
swim-with-dolphins operation. According to longtime opponents of dolphin captivity Ric and
Helene O'Barry, Dolphin Fantaseas started on Anguilla in 1988 with six dolphins imported
from Cuba. Testing the market for expansion, three of the dolphins were transferred to
Antigua & Barbuda in December 2001.
Martha Watkins-Gilkes, public relations officer for the 1,200-member Antigua & Barbuda
Independent Tourism Promotion Corporation, and author of numerous books about Caribbean
diving, objected that the Cuban dolphins were imported in violation of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species. Meanwhile, summarized Ontario dolphin defender
Gwen McKenna, "Dolphin Fantaseas persuaded the Antigua & Barbuda government to
grant them a permit to capture 'up to 12 dolphins annually from Antiguan waters in the
event that the current sources of supply are unable to provide this number of animals per
year,' and a permit to export these dolphins."
"The government was sold a dirty and misleading bill of goods," charged
Watkins-Gilkes. "In public debate Dolphin Fantaseas managing director Arthur Bud
stated that they would employ more than 20 Antiguans. How many Antiguans are employed two
Attorney John Eli Fuller in Nov-ember 2003 sued the Antigua & Barbuda attorney
general, Mezzanotte, and Dolphin Fantaseas on behalf of Watkins-Gilkes and the ABITPC. The
Antigua & Barbuda cabinet revoked the capture permit before the case went to court.
"While the main issue has been resolved," Watkins-Gilkes told ANIMAL PEOPLE,
"it is unclear if the law suit will be dropped.
There is [also] still the question of the wrongful importation of the three Cuban
dolphins. It is hoped," she added, "that this case will have a positive impact
throughout the Caribbean islands." Antigua and Barbuda, together with Dominica,
Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, consistently
align themselves at the annual meetings of the International Whaling Commission in support
of Japanese-led efforts to weaken or rescind the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling,
along with the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. All are recipients of Japanese
As many as 200 dolphins were captured in waters surrounding the Solomon Islands in July
2003 for sale to exhibition and swim-with-dolphins venues, during a lawless interim
between a failed coup attempt and the arrival of Australian peacekeeping troops.
Photographers and videographers documenting the captures and the resultant deaths of
several dolphins were chased and threatened, and in one instance a videographer's boatman
was severely beaten, wrote London Daily Telegraph correspondent Alex Spillius.
The captures were organized by Waves Consulting, apparently formed by Christopher Porter,
34, a Canadian whose wife is reportedly a Solomon Islander. Porter previously handled
marine mammals at Sea-land of the Pacific in Victoria, British Colum-bia, now defunct; the
Vancouver Aquarium; and the Aquario di Genova in Italy.
Just before the Australian peacekeepers arrived, Waves Consulting flew 28 dolphins to the
Parque Nizuc swim-with complex in Cancun, Mexico. Greenpeace alleged that 33 dolphins were
actually loaded aboard the aircraft, and one dolphin soon afterward died at Parque Nizuc.
"The International Fund for Animals launched a thorough investigation, which proved
that the operation constituted a gross violation of several national and international
laws," publicist Kerry Branon and Latin American affairs director Beatrice Bugeda of
IFAW recounted on February 17, 2004.
"In November 2003, IFAW presented the results of its investigation to the Mexican
authorities, demanding that charges be brought against those responsible for the import of
the dolphins. [On January 22, 2004] The Ministry of Public Office, the equivalent of a
federal comptroller, admitted that both the dolphin importation and permits were illegal,
announcing actions against former deputy environment minister Raul Arriaga and 27 other
current and former officials."
The dolphin transaction turned out to be among the smallest of Arriaga's alleged misdeeds,
at least in numbers of animals. "In the course of reviewing government records and
other documents," Branon wrote, "IFAW discovered hunting permits had been
illegally issued for countless species across the country."
Altogether, the Arriaga administration "issued illegal hunting permits leading to the
slaughter of more than 2.5 million animals over the last two years," Branon charged.
"IFAW will be following these cases closely," pledged Bugeda. "We are
hopeful that this decision signals increased political will and vigilance regarding laws
protecting animals and the environment.
Louis Ng of the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society in Singapore met with
less official cooperation in January 2004, after establishing that at least three of the
endangered Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins kept at Underwater World Singapore were not
born in captivity as Underwater World declared on their import permits. The Haw Park
Corporation, the Underwater World parent firm, claimed when it bought six dolphins from a
Thai marine mammal park in 1999 that all were captive-born, but the Thai facility first
acquired dolphins in 1988. Four of the six imported dolphins, one of them now deceased,
were therefore too old to have been born in captivity.
The Singapore Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority acknowledged that the paperwork on the
transaction was incorrect, but contended that it was not in violation of CITES because the
dolphins were brought in for educational and breeding purposes, rather than for commerce.
Campaigning for the release of the dolphins since 2001, Ng told Lee Hui Chieh of The
Straits Times that he had asked the CITES secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland to
Attracting more than 18 million visitors since opening in 2001, Underwater World is a
major economic enterprise, whether or not it acknowledges a commercial interest in dolphin
exhibition. It is, however, also a conventional oceanarium, offering essentially the same
combination of fish tanks and a marine mammal show that Marineland of Florida introduced
to the world in 1949, after 11 years of operating as a film studio.
$$ are in swim-with The big money in marine mammal exhibition these days is in offering
opportunities to swim with dolphins. Sea World has more-or-less cornered the market within
the U.S., where the operating requirements are strict and obtaining dolphins has become
relatively difficult, but swim-with operations are popping up almost more rapidly than
dolphin defenders can count them.
Soon after Gwen McKenna received confirmation from Watkins-Gilkes that Antigua &
Bermuda had revoked John Mezzanotte's capture permits, for example, she learned and
relayed to ANIMAL PEOPLE that, "A dolphin display permit is being sought by a newly
formed company called Bermuda Dolphin Oasis. Sources in Bermuda have informed me,"
McKenna continued, "that Lynn Hassell and her husband Martin are behind it. Hassell
is the CEO of Dolphin Fantaseas and one of the largest shareholders. She has lived and
worked in Bermuda for many years. Prior to working for Dolphin Fantaseas, she held a
senior position at Bermuda Dolphin Quest.
Hassell insists this is a local project in Bermuda and has nothing to do with Dolphin
Fantaseas," McKenna added. "There is very little information available on the
application. Hassell said that the dolphins would be collected from a new aquarium which
didn't want its name known."
Conventional oceanariums tend to keep just a handful of reliable performing dolphins, and
perhaps some non-performing mates or offspring. Only a few dolphins amuse multitudes.
Keeping more dolphins than necessary may be an economic liability.
Swim-with facilities, on the other hand, are limited in income potential--at least so
far--mostly by the numbers of dolphins they can provide. The more dolphins the operators
have, the more time with dolphins they can sell. This has created a greater demand for
captive dolphins than ever before.
Trainers at Taiji
The good news in the situation is that the more familiar people become with dolphins
through either conventional oceanariums or swim-with facilities, the more likely they are
to oppose whaling, killing dolphins for meat, and fishing methods that are known to harm
In Japan right now, as in the U.S. and Europe a generation ago,
"save-the-whales" perspectives are rising parallel to the growth in attendance
at as many as 49 marine mammal entertainment venues--even though, according to Ric
O'Barry, none of them educate visitors about marine mammal exploitation of any kind. The
bad news is that most of the dolphins exhibited in Japan, and elsewhere in Asia, appear to
have been purchased from the so-called "drive fisheries" of Taiji and Iki
islands, off Japan.
Dolphin-selling has put serious money into the traditional roundups and massacres of
dolphins who are blamed by local fishers for the ever more acute scarcity of
over-exploited fish stocks.
For example, Sakae Fujiwara of the Elsa Nature Conservancy e-mailed in October 2003, the
Ask Japan Corporation began developing a planned "dolphin therapy" center at
Sanuki, in Kagawa prefecture, by purchasing two dolphins from Taiji. They later bought
three more, two of whom soon died, and formed a parallel nonprofit, the Japan Dolphin
Assisted Therapy Association, in 2002.
The project was delayed by difficulty in securing investment capital late in 2003, but
that scarcely inhibited the bidding by others at Taiji, reported Ric O'Barry.
"About 50 dolphin trainers gathered in Taiji to select the best-looking of the
captured dolphins, allowing the rejects to be slaughtered by the whalers. The capture and
selection process was appalingly violent," O'Barry e-mailed after his second visit of
the winter to the scene of the killing. "Panic-stricken dolphins were dragged ashore
with ropes. Beached animals accidentally beat each other up in the frenzy as they tried to
get back into the water. Mothers and babies were separated by force. The trainers simply
stood by and watched as some of the dolphins, in an effort to escape, got entangled in the
capture nets and suffocated. Some of these trainers are members of the International
Marine Animal Trainers Association," O'Barry charged, recognizing them from past
Representing the French organization One Voice, Ric and Helene O'Barry obtained video
footage of two westerners among the group.
"If dolphin captivity was not fueling the dolphin slaughter by buying dolphins, the
slaughter would have a very hard time surviving," said One Voice founder Muriel
Arnal. Actually the slaughter is so politically and culturally entrenched, and the fishers
so much prefer blaming dolphins for depleted fish stocks instead of themselves, that the
drive fisheries, like the annual Atlantic Canada seal massacre, are likely to continue
until the balance of national political interests quits favoring traditional practices in
backward regions. But that might happen faster in both Taiji and Atlantic Canada if
selling dolphins and seal byproducts did not produce at least the illusion that the
massacres are lucrative.
West African capture?
Others may also be cashing in, or hoping to. E-mails from several different sources, each
forwarding information apparently obtained by the marine mammal protection organization
Oceanium-Narou Heuleuk, of Dakar, Senegal, claimed in late January that a mass round-up of
dolphins was anticipated off Guinea Bissau, West Africa. The first e-mail, dated January
23, claimed that the captures were already started.
The next, dated January 26, said "Indications are that the capture has not begun, but
if it occurs, it will take place in the Bissagos archipelago. A caller who wished to
remain anonymous, who is a long-time insider and has first hand knowledge of the
situation, stated that the financier of this take is the same person who was involved in
the mass dolphin capture in the Solomon Islands." No confirmation was available for
any of this, nor for additional details supplied by Oceanium-Narou Heuleuk.
The Lisbon Zoo and the Portuguese amusement park Zoomarine were unsuccessful in December
2001 in an attempt to get permits to import 10 dolphins from Guinea-Bissau. Not clear is
whether any of the dolphins were actually captured then.
Editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE
P.O. Box 960
Clinton, WA 98236
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