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  Underwatertimes 21 Nov 06
Cayman's Tourism Minister: Some Dolphin Deaths Expected at New Dolphin Tourist Park; 'It will Happen'
by Basia Pioro

Underwatertimes 21 Nov 06
Cayman's Animal Welfare Agency Kept in the Dark About Captive Sharks
by Underwatertimes.com News Service

Underwatertimes 17 Nov 06
Six Sharks Die at New Cayman's Amusement Park as Life Support System Fails; 'There is a Strong Learning Curve'
by Cliodhna McGowan

George Town, Cayman Islands (Nov 17, 2006 08:00 EST) Visitors to Cayman’s newest tourist attraction Boatswain’s Beach won’t be coming face to face with any predators until at least February of next year.

This is the word from Managing Director Ken Hydes who confirmed to the Caymanian Compass yesterday (Thursday) that six sharks destined for the predator tank had died back in July.

“Their loss was due to a system problem with their life support system,” he said.

The sharks were in a quarantine facility on site, prior to being placed in the larger predator tank, Mr. Hydes explained. Fish undergo a 30–day–quarantine period on arrival at the park. The sharks were in two tanks by themselves when the malfunction occurred during the night.

“As a result of the malfunction the parameters surrounding the water quality was affected,” he said. The entire quarantine system is relatively new for the park.

“It’s a known fact that at the start up of new systems there’s a natural attrition,” he said.

While noting that the loss of any living thing is tragic, Mr. Hydes said that another factor in the deaths was the expense of transporting the fish to Cayman by air. They had been imported from Florida. But more sharks are to be acquired for the park.

“We’re putting together a plan going forward for the purchase of additional predators. It’s something we’re reviewing and formulising,” he said. “It ’s a key component of our exhibit.”

Boatswain’s Beach is also still pushing forward with the quarantine of other fish species for its exhibits.

Mr. Hydes said that with mechanical and chemical systems there is always a risk, and the mechanical failure has been a tremendous learning curve for Boatswain’s Beach.

“We have a very robust team and this is a strong learning curve we have gone through with these fish,” he said.

Lessons have been learned and in the loss of the predators, improvements have been put in place, he noted. “We’ve improved the quarantine system and made it more robust.”

Mr. Hydes said that part and parcel of being a marine park is the potential for the loss of animals or fish.

“In most aquariums there is an eight to 10 per cent attrition,” he said.

Causes, he said, can be some fish eating others within their viewing tanks, or from natural causes or operating problems.

A number of other fish have been lost throughout the spectrum of fish being acclimatised at the park, through transhipment or for various other reasons including illness, he said.

Mr. Hydes confirmed that the life support system has only suffered this one glitch since its installation and has been operating fine since the initial loss of the sharks. The system had only been started a few days before the first batch of fish arrived, said Mr. Hydes.

“We feel more confident with the animal life support systems having matured and operating much better,” he said. An expert has just recently come down to look at the systems and is modifying the species being supplied on what knowledge has been gained on species best suited to the system.

There are a number of different permits Boatswain’s Beach has had to obtain in order to operate as the extended facility it is becoming. For the quarantine system, a deep well discharge permit has been acquired, along with a deep well water extraction permit, also in hand. “We have had to collect and provide the Water Authority with whatever they require for us to maintain those permits,” Mr. Hydes said.

Still pending is the main marine discharge permit for discharge of effluent to offshore waters. An anti–degradation study has been undertaken for this purpose, including a study of the surrounding water and specifications of each of the features of the marine park.

Mr. Hydes said that this permit must be granted before any fish can be added to the salt water lagoon, as this is what is required under the Water Authority Law. But, he feels confident the marine discharge permit will be granted before it is required, potentially in about a month’s time.

The salt water lagoon is to be filled with water in the coming days and once that happens, the lagoon has to naturally condition itself before any fish can be added. This is a process that takes 30 days. “We’ll monitor the water quality as the conditioning takes place,” he said. The park is looking at introducing fish into this lagoon around 17 December, he said, pending the permit.

The principal addition to the main permit will be the discharge of water from the sludge tank from the new features, he said. Excluded from this, he said, will be waste from the aviary, which goes to the treatment plant on site.

It was an overseas company that set up the life support systems and trained Boatswain’s Beach staff on how to use them, Mr. Hydes said. “My expertise is not in keeping fish,” he said.

“But with the people we have recruited we have that expertise and we have consultants both in animal husbandry and on the operational side of the park,” he said.

Nobody is as devastated about the loss of the sharks as the Boatswain’s Beach team, said Mr Hydes. When the deaths occurred some months ago, Mr. Hydes said they did not feel it was necessary to come out publicly with it because they were faced with a lot of challenges at the time.

Now that it had come out naturally, he said, he was happy to talk about it, although not happy about the loss.

But because of what they have learned since, and the upgrades that have been done, the chances of a repeat of what happened have been minimised, he said.

Mr. Hydes noted they are now looking at the month of February for having sharks in the predator lagoon while it is hoped the salt water lagoon will be available for human use before then.

Underwatertimes 21 Nov 06
Cayman's Tourism Minister: Some Dolphin Deaths Expected at New Dolphin Tourist Park; 'It will Happen'
by Basia Pioro

George Town, Cayman Islands (Nov 21, 2006 08:10 EST) At least some of the dolphins slated for the Grand Cayman's proposed dolphin facilities in West Bay are expected to die.

Speaking to reporters at the weekly Cabinet press briefing, Tourism Minister Charles Clifford said attrition for all the life forms that are to be imported to the dolphin facility is anticipated and the Ministry is prepared to deal with that eventuality when it arises.

Mr. Clifford was responding to recent news that six quarantined sharks destined for the Botswain's beach predator tank display had died due to a mechanical malfunction two months ago.

"We do expect that some of the dolphins will die at the facility, just as they die in the wild. It will happen," he said.

The recent shark incident reflects the fears of dolphin advocate groups, who claim dolphin death rates, at six per cent in captive facilities, are similar to those in the wild, even though the animals' survival is no longer affected by natural threats and predators.

The sharks were in a quarantine facility at Boatswain's Beach. All fish undergo a 30–day quarantine period after arriving at the park. They died when there was a malfunction in the life support system, causing a problem with water quality. The sharks had been imported from Florida via air.

Since the deaths an expert has come to the Cayman Islands to help staff at Boatswain's Beach shore up the quarantine system. Planning permission has been granted for the physical construction of two separate dolphin entertainment facilities in West Bay.

Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. is a franchise with headquarters in Mexico and is to be located at the site of the old Turtle Farm in West Bay, as part of Boatswain's Beach, but privately run.

Dolphin Cove Cayman is associated with Dolphin Cove Jamaica and is to be located south of Calypso Grill in Batabano, West Bay, by the North Sound.

Underwatertimes 21 Nov 06
Cayman's Animal Welfare Agency Kept in the Dark About Captive Sharks
by Underwatertimes.com News Service

George Town, Cayman Islands (Nov 21, 2006 08:17 EST) Despite being charged with the welfare of animals in the Cayman Islands, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was kept in the dark about captive sharks.

That revelation comes days after news broke here that six sharks were found dead at the Boatswain's Beach tourist attraction in Grand Cayman in July.

Prior to being placed in a predator tank as part of the West Bay facility's attraction, the sharks died but that information was only released to the media last week.

Managing Director of Boatswain's Beach Kenneth Hydes said the two tanks that held the sharks malfunctioned, causing the water quality to be affected. Mr Hydes said that more sharks would be acquired for the predator tanks, adding that they were a key component to the company's exhibit.

Carolyn Parker, a member of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, said her committee knew nothing about sharks in captivity in the Islands. "We really didn't know because not all the animals were given to us. We have discussed other animals in captivity but not sharks," she said.

"I found out when I read the papers. I didn't know they were here and now they have passed away."

Ms Parker, who also holds the animal welfare portfolio as a Director of the Cayman Islands Humane Society, said the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee met on 8 November but the shark matter never came up.

She has expressed concerns about captive animals in the Islands, saying that her organization wanted to ensure that there would not be a repetition. "We are going to meet in January so since it came up in the newspaper I am sure it will be on the next agenda," she added.

The latest incident has the Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands movement disappointed and saddened after numerous attempts to get Government to ban captive facilities, including dolphinariums.

Billy Adam of the Keep Dolphins Free movement said there are no regulations for public display under the Animal Law. According to him, it is a case of Government not following their laws and on some occasions even breaking them.

Mr Adam, who has been a strong critic of dolphinariums and other captive facilities here, said the marine captive industry is known for secrecy.

"It's typical of a lot these marine aquariums to hide the facts from the public. It's exactly what we have been speaking about for several years - this is how the industry operates," he said. "The marine captive industry operates on secrecy and misinformation."

He lamented that the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has not drafted regulations for supervision and enforcement by the Agricultural Department.

According to him, the committee views the captive facilities as strictly as tourism amusement items.

President of the Cayman Islands Humane Society Giuseppe Gatta also expressed concerns about the sudden death of the sharks and the secrecy behind it. "We are very concerned because we were not even aware that the sharks were here. It is the same issue with dolphins in captivity, why are we having sharks in captivity now?" he said.

"Why do we have to go in the wild and capture all these animals? I don't understand. What is the purpose of it?" Mr Gatta said the Humane Society needs answers and would be pressing for them.

"We want to find out what is going on here, we have been kept in the dark. We are a member of the animal welfare group and we know nothing about it. Why are we keeping everything a secret?"

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