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Why Are U.S. Dolphins Being Sent to the Caribbean to Die?
Florida Dolphins Fall Through the Cracks

Dominica - - While the world watched, debated and cheered for Keiko, of "Free Willy" fame, no one seemed to notice when four others of his kind were quietly shipped from island to island in the Caribbean, left to suffer and die. Last year, Isla, Jessica, Tracey and Kimbit, dolphins from Key Largo, Florida, were carted off to be part of a captive dolphin swim program on the island of Tortola. There they were confined to a small, filthy lagoon, overrun by waste runoff, oil, garbage and fuel from a nearby marina and surrounded by ceaseless noise pollution.

Then, after a year in this foul environment - while the world seemed to rally around Keiko - these sick and broken dolphins were passed around again, this time to the island of Dominica. Shortly after arriving on the island, Isla died and Tracey is known to be gravely ill. Why were four of our dolphins allowed to fall through the cracks?

The dolphins' miserable journey began in September of 2001 when, against the best advice of marine mammal experts and protests from animal welfare organizations worldwide, the Florida facility "Dolphins Plus" sent the four dolphins to Tortola to be used in a swim program at Prospect Reef Resort.

The controversial export took place with the permission of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which is expected to ensure that any facility that imports dolphins from the United States meets this country's standards of animal care. Also, if the dolphins are, in turn, transported to yet another destination, NMFS must receive notification of this as well.

All of these supposed safeguards failed Isla and her companions. And the fact is that, for every one "Keiko" that retires to a natural environment, there are countless more "Islas" who never escape the bonds of captivity and lose their lives in the process.

The finger of blame points in many directions, but this doesn't change the fact that Isla is dead; Tracey may soon suffer the same fate; and the lives of three US dolphins hang in the balance. Neither Dolphins Plus nor US officials seem to be acting in the best interest of the dolphins. Currently in a murky holding pen, the dolphins are to be moved yet again as the swim program facility edges closer to completion. Reports from Dominica say that this could occur as early as December or January.

Time is working against Tracey, Jessica and Kimbit. We need your letters, faxes, phone calls and emails today. Will you join with WSPA and speak for these US dolphins?

Send your letters to:

  • The Honorable Pierre Charles
    Prime Minister
    Government Headquarters
    Commonwealth of Dominica
    Tel: 767 448 2401
    Fax: 767 448 5200

    Points to make: Dominica prides itself on being "The Nature Island of the Caribbean" and is in danger of tarnishing this reputation by being affiliated with an operation that exploits dolphins. Urge him to protect his island paradise and respectfully ask that he: Allow an independent body to assure the welfare of the remaining animals, and Revoke the permit for Dolphins Plus to operate a captive facility on the island.

  • The Honorable Charles Savarin
    Minister for Tourism
    Government Headquarters
    Commonwealth of Dominica
    Tel: 767 448 2401
    Fax: 767 448 5200

    Points to make: Captive programs are inconsistent with your idea of a nature-friendly vacation destination. Dominica is developing a wealth of wonderful programs to attract visitors and the exploitation of dolphins casts a shadow over these other, ecologically sound attractions. You will not be spending your tourists dollars in Dominica should this plan be allowed to proceed.

  • Mr. Gene Nitta
    Permits Specialist
    Office of Protected Resources
    Permits Division
    1315 East-West Highway
    Room 13822
    Silver Spring, MD 20910
    Tel: 301 713 2289 ext. 107
    Fax: 301 713 0376

    Points to make: While NMFS was quite vocal in the debate over Keiko, the "Free Willy" orca, it remained silent in the case of the less-famous animals from Dolphins Plus. Clearly, the National Marine Fisheries Service cannot guarantee the well being of captive dolphins once they leave the country. Given this lack of oversight and enforcement authority, NMFS must cease to grant permits that allow dolphins to be removed from the United States.