The Bahamas are taking a huge step towards the protection of marine mammals.
A court in the Caribbean island has ordered that an illegal dolphinarium shut down and is questioning whether any dolphins should be allowed into the Bahamas for any purpose beyond research.
‘Blackbeard’s Cay’ is the name of the attraction that would have featured captive dolphins but was ordered to shut its doors before ever opening them. It would have been the fourth of its kind in the country, which profits mainly from tourism.
For the entertainment, its company owner, Blue Illusions Unlimited, secured eight dolphins from Honduras earlier this year but as the court ruled, they were brought into the country illegally.
The investigation was a result of the local activist group reEarth, which gathered 65,000 signatures in favor of freeing the dolphins and accused the country’s prime minister, the minister of agriculture and several others of breaking the law by giving Blue Illusions Unlimited permits. Justice Stephen Isaacs agreed with the group, noting that the whole project was done in secrecy, purposefully not releasing important information to the public. Finally, the dolphins were imported before the permits had been granted, which violated he Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“I am thrilled,” celebrated Sam Duncombe, president of reEarth. “We’ve been fighting this issue for 24 years and finally we’ve been able to bring one of the developers with dolphins in captivity to court over the circumvention of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.”
In addition to having to release the dolphins from captivity, the court also ruled that the area that is now filled with sea pens be restored to its original state and Justice Isaacs questioned whether there is a need at all for dolphins to be imported into the country for entertainment or any kind of tourist attraction.
The company has the right to appeal the decision within the next few weeks but for now, animals in captivity can celebrate a landmark victory.
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