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September 18, 2008

Victory for Dolphins in Panama

Humane Society International

In a major victory for dolphins, a company called Ocean Embassy has left Panama and abandoned plans to capture up to 80 of the animals for use at a new luxury resort in that country.

Two years ago, Ocean Embassy was on the fast track to getting a permit for the dolphin captures from the Panamanian government. HSI got involved at the request of Alexandra Cousteau (granddaughter of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau), who was working on shark protection in Panama at the time. HSI Senior Scientist Naomi Rose teamed up with local advocates and other international animal welfare and conservation groups and met with government officials and media, spoke to the public and distributed educational materials. This focused protest, with dedicated local animal protection groups—especially Fundación Humanitas—coordinating efforts, made the difference that saved the dolphins.

A new threat

However, now the leaders of Ocean Embassy (a subsidiary of Wildlife International Network, or WIN) have established a nonprofit organization, Embassy Blue Institute, to raise funds for "education," "conservation," and what they call “rescue" work for dolphins around the world, including in the South Pacific. They have been active in Solomon Islands, a country near Australia that has already declared open season on its dolphins. Ocean Embassy was involved in the capture and sale of 28 Solomons dolphins last year who were shipped to Dubai in October 2007. We still do not know the fate of those animals, as information from Dubai has not been forthcoming.

HSI has not seen any reports that nonprofit Embassy Blue has yet captured any dolphins in Solomon Islands under its own auspices, but we believe that they are looking for a site to establish a permanent operation. Meanwhile, at least two other companies with licenses to capture dolphins there are already holding some 25 dolphins between them, awaiting customers to buy the animals.

HSI will continue to fight against the capture of live dolphins from the wild in the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and around the world.