Turks and Caicos Islands dolphinarium
Until 2012, the law in Turks & Caicos Islands did not allow marine mammals to be kept in captivity. There had been interest for some time by foreign investors in opening a dolphinarium in TCI as other bases became increasingly less practicable with the wider spread of more enlightened legislation preventing such activity. At the time, following failings in the locally elected government, TCI was under direct UK rule, meaning that the Governor could pass legislation without guidance or supervision. The then Governor, Ric Todd, amended the law to allow marine mammals to be kept in captivity. Astoundingly, this was done without consulting his statutory environmental advisers or any other responsible conservation body. A consortium of NGOs, led by the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund, sought a judicial review of the decision of the Governor, but unfortunately the Supreme Court Judge dismissed the application saying that the then Governor had not acted unlawfully.
The Turks and Caicos has long been a place to see dolphins in the wild. Jo-Jo, a wild bottlenose dolphin has delighted visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands, especially in Grace Bay, Providenciales, for many years. TCI has also been the release site for three re-habilitated captive dolphins when changes in regulations made keeping in captivity impracticable in UK. Visitors and residents delight in seeing Jo-Jo, and TCI has, to date, had an enviable reputation under its “Beautiful by Nature” strapline. Hence the puzzlement over the law changes which made it possible for dolphinaria to be developed
Over several years, we have supported online petitions, written articles, contacted TCI Government and UK Government, in support of local efforts to ensure that this does not go ahead, on the grounds that: it would not supply the much-needed local jobs on Grand Turk that the developers promise; it is a cruel practice going against public feeling; and would be potentially damaging to areas of ecological significance, both in the case of the originally proposed location on Providenciales and the currently proposed one on Grand Turk.
In 2016, an Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted as part of plans to develop a facility on Grand Turk. TCRF supported by UKOTCF and some members of its network, submitted a response outlining the inadequacies of the EIA. To date no decision has been made by the TCI Government on the development, but we continue to monitor the situation.