As of 9 October, a petition aimed at stopping the return of popular tourist activity “Swim With the Dolphin” had garnered 3,107 of its 5000 signature goal.
The petition stemmed from the announcement that was made by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie that Dolphin Discovery the company that manages the ‘Swim With the Dolphin’ activity is returning after being disrupted by hurricanes Irma in 2017.
At a press conference on 2 October Premier Fahie told the media that the Junior Minister for Tourism, Hon. Shareen Flax-Charles has been in discussion with Dolphin Discovery. Mr. Fahie told reporters: “She (Hon Flax-Charles) has already brought all the players to the table, discussions have been had and the leg work is being completed, led by her, and being looked over by the Premier’s Office so that should be something that should be signed within the next two months or so, I should say, and then works would be started, so that won’t be open until next year.”
However, the news of the return of the dolphins was not seen as welcoming to all as an individual identified as Neil Day created the petition that can be found on change.org titled “Stop the return of captive dolphins to the British Virgin Islands.”
In the petition the author said: “Very little good news came about as a result of hurricane Irma which decimated the Virgin Islands in 2017, however the destruction of the tourist attraction run by Dolphin Discovery in Tortola meant that the island no longer held captive dolphins – but that may be about to change. Now the government of the Virgin Islands is in discussion with Dolphin Discovery to bring this outdated form of entertainment back to the BVI.”
Day referred to the practice of dolphin amusement as exploitation. He said: “The practice of exploiting these intelligent, social animals is out of step with the modern world, basic decency and increasingly, the law, as countries, most recently Canada, continue to ban this vile exploitation.”
The petitioner further mentioned that having “Swim With the Dolphin” programme is an embarrassment. “Many travel companies, most recently Tripadvisor, have stopped promoting or selling tickets to captive dolphin programs as they distance themselves from those that profit from their confinement and suffering. This brings shame on all of us who call the BVI home,” he added.
When the operation opened at Prospect Reef Resort in the 1990s it was criticised and opposed by a sizable segment of the BVI population.