Tourism professionals in Phuket, a popular Thailand dive destination, are outraged over the proposed opening of the Nemo Dolphinarium there, and are calling upon all tourism professionals in Phuket to join the protest against this project.
Opposition groups include Skal International Phuket, an association for tourism professionals, which firmly believes that seeing dolphins in captivity can be miseducational, similar to entertainment in circus-style performances. In a statement to the media, SKAL says, “Dolphins are highly intelligent animals who suffer greatly from the effects of confinement. As a result, they suffer from stress, breeding problems and premature death, as well as behavioral problems that can result in aggression between themselves and towards humans.”
Currently, wild-dolphin captures take place in Japan, the Solomon Islands, Cuba and Russian Federation waters. This is of serious concern to the scientific community. None of these countries are in a position to make non-detriment findings for the export of captured animals, as required by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
In Japan, especially in the fishing village of Taiji, pods of wild dolphins are rounded up at sea and driven towards the shore, where some are selected for aquariums and the rest are slaughtered for meat. Dolphin imports into the European Union for primarily commercial purposes are completely prohibited under EU CITES legislation.
Skal International, along with other scientific and environmental groups, points out that captive environment cannot accommodate the mental, physical and social needs of dolphins, and it is impossible for captive dolphins to mimic their wild behavior, complex lives and the natural environment they are meant to inhabit.
Despite the so-called comforts of captivity and the food and veterinary care provided, many captives, including those born in captivity, have far shorter lifespans than their wild counterparts. Furthermore, since the captive dolphin population remains unsustainable around the world, an import of dolphins from another dolphinarium may result in further wild captures to restock the exporting dolphinarium.
This dolphinarium is an unnecessary attraction for Phuket, which already attracts plentiful tourists seeking both nightlife and Thailand’s rich natural biodiversity. Many believe that by allowing this project to happen, Phuket is taking a step backwards.
Divers also have expressed their anger over the proposed dolphinarium. U.K. resident and regular Phuket diver Barry Manners, who has discovered a number of important dive site wrecks in Phuket says,
“I learned to dive in Phuket in the late 1990s, progressing from PADI Open Water through to TDI Advanced Trimix. From shallow reefs, a decade later I’d progressed to searching out new wrecks at almost 100 meters (328 feet). The Phuket dive industry has built an international reputation and offers something for almost everyone.”
“Divers come in many guises, but there’s one thing we share in common. We’re passionate about preserving the oceanic environment that inspired us to learn the sport in the first place. A dolphinarium on the island is so off-message it’s a kick in the teeth. Even if the issues surrounding animal cruelty carry no weight with the island’s administration, the collective wallets of tens of thousands of divers should.”
At a recent meeting in Bangkok, members of Skal International Phuket presented Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sport with two documents outlining the club’s arguments. Why Phuket Says No details their opposition to the dolphinarium in Phuket. In a second document, a letter to the Minister of Tourism and Sport, the SKAL club said:
“The issues far outweigh the benefits. It puts the lives and well being of both humans and dolphins at risk. It shows backward thinking and moves against the trend of developed countries. For instance, the U.K. closed its last dolphinarium in the 90s while India has completely banned them.
“Furthermore, the Phuket dolphinarium has already inflicted public opposition and increasingly attracted more negative attention than any recent tourism development. Finally, it certainly puts into question Thailand’s environmental standing, and the country’s global tourism reputation.”
Add your own voice to the protest over the Nemo Dolphinarium here.