Dolphin Cove row taken to court

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A plan by the operators of tourist attraction Dolphin Cove to establish a dolphinarium in Discovery Bay, St Ann, is now the subject of a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

The action — which names Dolphin Cove Ltd, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), the Town and Country Planning Authority, and the St Ann Municipal Corporation as respondents — was filed on April 2 by Erica Downer Hamilton, Discovery Bay Community Development Committee (CDC) Ltd, Alloa Fishermen Co-operative Society Ltd, John Greaves, and Jennifer Greaves.

Essentially, the applicants have filed for leave to be granted to apply for judicial review in anticipation of the decision of the NRCA and the Town and Country Planning Authority to renew Dolphin Cove’s beach licence, which expired on March 31.

The applicants are also seeking a declaration requiring Dolphin Cove Ltd to conduct an environmental impact assessment on the Discovery Bay area, prior to any application by the company for a renewal of the beach licence and/or prior to the granting of a renewal of the licence.

They also want the court to restrain NEPA, NRCA and the Town and Country Planning Authority from renewing the beach licence on the basis, they said, that “there has been a complete failure to assess the environmental impacts that the dolphins will have on the bay, which is in breach of several of the conditions indicated in the licence”.

In addition, the applicants are charging that their right, under the constitution, “to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage” has been breached, and as such they are asking the court for an order for constitutional redress, by way of damages.

According to the applicants, the development and operation of a dolphinarium “will result in the complete and/or catastrophic loss of the marine resources at Discovery Bay, based on the scientifically proved effects of holding dolphins in captivity within a lagoon area and special fisheries conservation area”.

They are also claiming that the environmental permit and beach licence were “granted without proper consultation with the immediate community”, or without “first having an environmental impact assessment done, which would include the necessary and required scientific studies for the ecologically sensitive area”.

Last month, Discovery Bay residents staged a protest metres from Parliament in downtown Kingston, demanding that the Government withdraw its approval for the construction of a new Dolphin Cove attraction in the bay.

According to CDC President Lee Arbouin, the Government had granted a restricted permit for a new Dolphin Cove attraction at Puerto Seco Beach, despite objections raised by scientists at The University of The West Indies marine lab, Jamaica Environment Trust, the CDC, and the Fishermen’s Co-op.

Arbouin said that while the current proprietor of Puerto Seco has done a wonderful job with the beach, he has “extended this to include a dolphin cove, which is a disaster environmentally to the reef, to the seagrass, and to human beings” .

She also expressed concern that the waste from the dolphins will likely pollute the bay, as there is little forward movement in bays to quickly get rid of contaminants.

“Because of the water circulation it will stay in the bay, it will damage the bay; and we, the people, will soon not be able to swim because it will be polluted. So our children will have nowhere to swim, our elderly will have nowhere to swim; and so we are saying to the people, ‘Stand with us and make your voices heard’,” Arbouin said, adding that the group has gathered 21,000 signatures for a petition against the dolphinarium.

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