In what it called a potential ‘watershed moment,’ Save The Bays today lavished congratulations on reEarth, the organization that succeeded in winning the right to Judicial Review for issues related to captive dolphins and unregulated development at Blackbeard’s Cay.
“We are thrilled to have such a committed and fiercely dedicated group on the side of what is right for animals and right for the environment,” said Fred Smith, QC, referring to reEarth, a community partner of Save The Bays which supported the legal action by attorneys from Callenders & Co. “For the past 24 years, reEarth has been a solid, often lone voice speaking out on many environmental issues and we are proud to stand by them in one that is so important.”
Lying off the northern coast of Cable Beach across from Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort, Blackbeard’s Cay (the former Balmoral Island,) has been the target of criticism from several arenas including environmentalists, animal rights advocates and downtown retailers. While local businesses feared the impact diverting cruise passengers to the cay, in particular, could have on the heart of Nassau and on other excursions, environmentalists and animal rights advocates expressed outrage over what they said were “intolerable and inhumane conditions” in which eight dolphins imported from Honduras in July 2013 were being kept.
“There is no protection from storms, no shade, no quarantine or gating facilities, all required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” said reEarth founder Sam Duncombe. The water is also far too shallow, she said.
“In December, a group went to inspect the area where these eight dolphin are kept captive,” said Duncombe. Kim Aranha, President of the Bahamas Humane Society, and videographer Matthew McCoy of Abaco were among those onboard. Save The Bays last week released McCoy’s images on a YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmIVz1o9rOQ&feature=youtu.be.
Using a depth finder, Duncombe measured the water at 6-foot-9 inches at high tide.
“The regulations call for nine feet at mean low tide,” said Duncombe. “Dolphins suffer from sunburn and it is crucial for them to be able to access deep water to escape the sun’s burning rays. Dolphins dive to 30 feet and swim 50 miles a day.”
The video also included footage of fencing that investigators said could be devastating if the dolphins were not safely removed prior to a strong storm.
“That this facility has been allowed to open without any regard for the welfare of these animals is immoral, unethical and anti-conservationist,” said Duncombe.
Construction on Blackbeard’s Cay had a year-long setback after Hurricane Sandy slammed into it last year. Stingrays kept in the same pen were all killed. The facility that caters largely to cruise ships and hopes to attract locals and hotel guests opened in May.
“This has been an excruciatingly long and heartbreaking 24 years as reEarth watched and fought both governments as they allowed one facility after another to open,” said Duncombe, questioning why a fourth would be needed when there are already three in operation in or around New Providence.
“Allowing these highly intelligent, highly socialized, empathetic beings to be enslave for nothing more than profit is immoral,” said Duncombe. “These animals travel in family groups called pods. They call each other by name. Mothers nurse their young for at least 18 months. Aunties babysit while mothers feed. Captivity is anathema to natural law, to the freedom and natural survival instincts of these animals.”
Moving the case from a fight in the press to one which the court accepted that reEarth has an arguable case by giving leave to issue Judicial Review validated the merits of the argument and is a huge step in the right direction for the protection of animals and for the rule of law, according to Smith.
Justice Stephen Isaacs heard arguments from the plaintiffs on February 6 and granted their requests for a judicial review and an early hearing date. Respondents include Prime Minister Perry Christie, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries V. Alfred Gray, Director of Fisheries and Marine Resources Michael Braynen and the Town Planning Committee. Charles Carter, Cedric Saunders and Abner Pinder, all local partners, were not named. Nor was Samir Androwos, a St. Maarten businessman and the principal behind the development.
“Today may truly turn out to be a watershed moment for the rule of law as it relates to development,” said Fred Smith, one of several senior lawyers working with Save The Bays, the sweeping environmental movement that has flexed its muscle in high-profile cases from Clifton Bay to Bimini, reiterating its mantra that development is not evil, unregulated development is. Sustainable development, claims Save The Bays, is necessary, valuable and should be incentivized. Since its launch less than one year ago, Save The Bays has gained more than 13,000 followers on Facebook and has collected nearly 6,000 signatures on a petition urging passage of an Environmental Protection Act, a Freedom of Information Act and an end to unregulated development.