A Commentary on the Proposed Pigeon Island Dolphin Park: Is Saint Lucia in the shackles of fool’s gold?

A proposed Dolphin Park in the north of the island has sparked public debate, with thousands signing petitions against the development.

Pigeon Island National Park is heralded as one of the most important monuments of Saint Lucia’s history. It is a representation of the island’s culture and history.

In 1979, with hard work and dedication to this historical site, Mr. Robert Devaux and his team established the first national park in Saint Lucia: Pigeon Island was marked a national landmark and historical heritage site. As founding director of the Saint Lucia National Trust, he had envisioned the protection and sustaining of this historical site for generations to come, preserving local history, culture and natural resources. He said that Pigeon Island was a green space steeped in history to be enjoyed by his children, their children and all Saint Lucians for generations to come, promoting values which lead to national pride and love for our country.

The proposed Dolphin Enclosure, complete with a restaurant, pool, boutique and restrooms, is likely to desecrate parts of the Pigeon Island Heritage Site, including unmarked historical grave sites that hold many years of cultural history silently embraced in their occupants’ untouched bones.

Whilst captive animals can provide an opportunity for people to see and interact with species they would not normally be able to see, dolphins are indigenous to the waters of Saint Lucia and can often be seen dancing in her seas. Why, then, would we want to pen in some of them off Pigeon Island when their cousins are roaming free? The argument often used in favour of captivity is that this educates people in order to protect them. Surely it is better to see dolphins in their own environment.

Dolphins are highly intelligent and have tight family bonds, travelling hundreds of miles daily finding food and exploring the deep blue. They use echo location to hunt and communicate. Being in captivity will hinder their abilities to do everything that comes naturally to them. Imagine being in a public prison where everyone and anyone can make you perform tricks for food. In our view, they deserve to be free.

Public opinion globally is generally against the internment of marine mammals. Virgin Holidays and TripAdvisor have stated they are anti dolphin parks and have pledged not to promote this type of ‘attraction’. If it is believed that the creation of this park would encourage tourism, this thinking should perhaps be revisited. The park may instead discourage additional visitors to this island.

We estimate that this project will create less than 30 permanent jobs if approved. We wonder whether this amounts to an economic argument in favour of the park. Surely it would be better to invest in local communities, encouraging Saint Lucians to create and develop new enterprises that protect the environment and promote sustainability.

We should also not forget about the local operators that run dolphin and whale watching tours, which enable tourists and locals alike to see these magnificent animals in the wild. A dolphin park would damage these businesses. Would it not make more sense to support and develop this sector rather than harm a heritage site?

Pigeon Island is one of the most bio-diverse sites on the island. It provides homes and a food chain for underwater creatures such as the fragile sea horse to the majestic eagle ray, as well as moray eels, peacock flounders, miniature blennies and crabs, to name just a few. Who will protect the unseen and often unnoticed habitat of these small animals? Simply put, we must. If we damage the ecosystem of Pigeon Island, there will surely be an impact on the rest of Saint Lucia’s underwater world.

We, as a dive operator, take pride in the dive sites on our island, Pigeon Island – sheltered from rough sea conditions and therefore a guaranteed site – being one of them. We are constantly trying to take the pressure off the southern reefs around the Pitons by diving in the north. This development would push more dive operators further south. There are discussions to develop further the diving in the north of the island – this project would potentially jeopardise these plans.

In summary, the proposed Dolphin Enclosure should not proceed and Pigeon Island should be preserved above and below the water.

By: Dawn Shewan and Nick Mobley

Editor’s note: The above was written in collaboration by Dive Saint Lucia and Anbaglo: Saint Lucia Diver Association. 

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5 Responses to A Commentary on the Proposed Pigeon Island Dolphin Park: Is Saint Lucia in the shackles of fool’s gold?

  1. Boyblue says:

    Who in the rightful mind with any sense of intelligence and basic understanding of global economics, tourism trends thing adolphin park in any part of St. Lucia would increase or benefit the country economically. More so even damaging a heritage site of valuable economic benefit to the country. Politicians on both side and the entire citizens of this my majestic island which is naturally simply beautiful must oppose this senseless and yes economical damaging proposed project.

    It is important that we must understand the future economic progress of St. Luciado not and will never come through large foreign investors and large corporate bodies but through local entrepreneurs.

    Rise my fellow countrymen and let your voice be heard loud and clear

  2. Junla says:

    It happens all the time. Just when supposedly industrialized countries become enlightened and decide to do away with their barbaric mental models, St-Lucians are available to scoop it up no questions asked. They are progressing they claim!

  3. Tom says:

    St. Lucians refuse everything & everybody.
    They even refuse to trade securities online from home just to keep a meager job and waste time driving in rage to it.
    Are they cavemen?
    How can they embrace progress when their preference is to always show they are smart on an always empty head, empty pockets and empty stomach?

  4. CUTHBERT MYERS says:

    how is it that the majority of persons commenting on the matter of dolphins at pigeon island have interests.in the DIVING / SCUBA ETC ACTIVITIES………….in the investment. environment………ALMOST 80 % foreign……….UK CANADA USA……IN THE GROS ISLET area………….but are not concerned…………….ABOUT the agouties///birds/parrots/snakes which ARE IN CAPTIVITIY in the UNION ZOO………… for the same reason…..PURPOISE??

  5. Well said and thank you guys for your comments . We need to make sure this does not happen

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