|Help stop the capture of wild dolphins for a Marine Park in Panama
A for-profit company called Ocean Embassy has presented a proposal to the Panamanian government for development of a dolphinarium that would require the capture of 80 wild dolphins over a 5-year period from both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Initially, and without any population surveys, Ocean Embassy is proposing to capture 28 dolphins.
To remove wild dolphins from their complex natural habitat, where they travel hundreds of miles and dive hundreds of feet, in order to keep them in small enclosures for the entertainment of humans should not be allowed in the 21st century. Condemning a wild dolphin to a stressful, restricted and shortened life, these captures would also subject other members of the wild pod to major stress, potential injury and even death during the violent capture process. In addition, little is known about either the population or health of the dolphin communities that live in this region.
Specifically, the Ocean Embassy proposal creates concerns in the following ways:
- The capture/collection of 28 dolphins will occur BEFORE any population survey occurs. This may invalidate future research / conservation efforts and is not consistent with widely-accepted sound resource management.
- Only one region (Bocas del Toro) may be surveyed. There appears to be no plan for a population survey of dolphin from the Gulf of Panama. However, dolphins will be taken from both Bocas del Toro and the Gulf of Panama.
- There is no assurance that the scope and duration of the population survey in Bocas del Toro will be sufficient to provide reliable estimates of the size of the dolphin population.
- There were no letters of support for this project from other scientific organizations in Central America.
What You Can Do
Please join us in calling for the Panamanian government to reject Ocean Embassy's proposal to capture 80 wild dolphins for captive display. Help protect wild dolphins by writing to the President of Panama and expressing your concerns about these captures and the conservation of dolphins in the Pacific and Caribbean regions.
Send your letters to:
Martín Torrijos Espino
Presidencia de la República de Panamá
Presidencia de la República
República de Panamá
Click here to email the President
Tel: +507 527-9600
Samuel Lewis Navarro
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores,
Calle 3era San Felipe,
República de Panamá
Read the letter Marine Connection sent to President Torrijos
Read update on Panamanian support against the captures
Bottlenose dolphins are not generally considered endangered, but their near-shore distribution within the Gulf of Panama and Bocas Del Toro in the Caribbean Sea makes them vulnerable to direct exploitation (including live-capture and removal), fishery conflicts and environmental degradation. This concern is especially true at the level of small, local, resident individual populations that will be targeted by Ocean Embassy's live capture operations. Individuals within the pods that experience the violent removal of their younger family members are at great risk of injury and even death and may suffer long-term negative consequences from the experience. Due to these captures, it is possible that the pod's health and reproductive rates will be negatively impacted in the future, putting a population at risk. This is a serious conservation concern.
There are welfare concerns as well. Taking dolphins from the wild for the amusement industry creates serious issues for those animals destined for a life in captivity entertaining humans. Dolphins travel hundreds of miles across the ocean, they are able to dive hundreds of feet. They use echolocation as a tool to explore their diverse surroundings, determine where they and catch their live prey. Each of these unique abilities, adapted for the huge and complex ocean environment over millions of years, are rendered useless when dolphins are confined in a small enclosure (a tank or a pen) where they must eat dead fish at set times each day. All captive dolphins, whether born in captivity or taken from the wild, suffer mentally and physically from having their natural, instinctive skills inhibited.
Many people still think captive facilities exist for the dolphins' welfare - as a conservation, education or research tool. But make no mistake - most of these facilities are commercial for-profit ventures and the cost of swimming with a dolphin makes them highly lucrative. If dolphinariums truly existed for the good of the animals, they would no doubt fail to turn a profit - the death of a dolphin (especially when 80 animals are going to be captured) is simply part of the "overhead" costs of such an operation.
Dolphins are an indicator species for the health of the marine environment. Taking dolphins from the wild, especially without any environmental assessments or population studies, is now widely accepted in the scientific and policy communities as irresponsible.
Image of bottlenose dolphin in wild: © Liz Barton