Dolphin activists oppose Sea World project in Maharashtra

An international environmentalist Wednesday urged Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to scrap the planned building of a marine-mammal park in Sindhudurg district in the coastal Konkan region.

In a letter to Chavan on behalf of animal rights group PETA, dolphin specialist Ric O’Barry said dolphins and other marine mammals suffer immeasurably in captivity as they do not belong to tanks.

"Dolphins in aquariums -- even those born in captivity -- quickly become depressed, stressed and volatile. These exceedingly intelligent marine mammals know they are not where they are supposed to be," said O’Barry, who featured in the Academy Award-winning film The Cove -- which documented the annual dolphin slaughter in Japan -- and who has trained dolphins for the 1960s American television show Flipper.

According to O'Barry, dolphins in the oceans inhabit a vast and complex world, establish close co-operative and long-standing relationships living in large social groups, swimming together as a family and travel up to 100 miles daily.

"Dolphins used in marine parks are violently torn from their families and confined to small tanks, that to them seem like bathtubs in which they can swim in only mind-numbing circles. Most captive dolphins live to be only half the age of wild dolphins," O'Barry pointed out.

The Emory University scientists recently determined that the cognitive capacity of dolphins is second only to that of humans, added O'Barry.

Citing examples of dolphin conservation efforts, he said that Brazil and Costa Rica have declared it as illegal to use marine mammals for entertainment.

Similarly, Israel has prohibited the import of dolphins for use in marine parks, and Canada no longer allows beluga whales to be captured and exported, while South Carolina, in the US, has banned exhibits of whales and dolphins.

O’Barry’s appeal comes after the state government announced plans to build India’s first oceanarium, Sea World, at a cost of over Rs.5 billion, in Malvan fishing village of Konkan, around 450 km south of Mumbai.

The decision last October followed a feasibility report prepared by the Science & Technology Park, University of Pune.

Construction on Sea World, which will house state-of-the-art facilities, will start September this year and the marine park is expected to be thrown open by 2015.
Among other things, Sea World would include a dolphin stadium, water park, a 3D dome theatre, aquarium, amphitheatre, underwater studio, rescue centre, theme restaurants and amusement facilities.

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