Messy claims land Discovery Bay CDC in trouble

Messy claims land Discovery Bay CDC in trouble

Associate editor - features

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

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THE management of Puerto Seco Beach has indicated that it is taking steps to file defamation suits against members of the Discovery Bay Community Development Committee (CDC) for what is described as their role in spreading falsehoods and untruths about the property.

“The papers are being drafted and will be filed shortly,” general manager of Guardsman Hospitality Laura Heron disclosed on Monday.

“We've actually lost business as a result of [their] claims,” she continued, adding that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines cancelled a call on the facility in the wake of allegations the committee aired in the media on October 26.

Puerto Seco Beach is operated by Guardsman Group of Companies on lease from the Government.

Members of the development committee staged a short-lived protest at the beach Monday morning, alleging that the four dolphins housed at Puerto Seco under concession from Dolphin Cove excrete some 30 lb of waste each day, which “makes the water cloudy, smelly and slimy”.

They waded onto Puerto Seco Beach from a neighbouring property, holding placards and chanting, among other things, “30 lbs of dolphin doo-doo in the bay. Check it out, check it out!”

One protestor, who was reluctant to show her face, and who identified herself only as Joyce, told the Jamaica Observer that she and others who have been using the beach for recreation for decades have been effectively locked out as a result of the dolphin enclosures and the adjoining jetty.

“For the last 20-odd years we have been coming here three days a week, four days a week. We have not been able to do our regular exercise that we have been doing...They've divided the water, basically keeping us in one section. Every week we have to be stumbling across this jetty to do our exercise. They have boulders in the water [and] concrete slabs all over the seafloor. That is really dangerous to the seniors and not fair to us,” she claimed.

“They have scared people off from coming into the water. The majority of Discovery Bay people are afraid of using the water now because of fear they will fall ill...It's grossly unfair what they have done to proper testing has been done to say we are safe in the water.

“We don't need a dolphin cove down here; we have other dolphin coves.”

The protest followed an open letter to National Environment Planning Agency (NEPA) CEO Peter Knight, in which the president of the group, Lee Arbouin, raised similar concerns and asked whether Dolphin Cove's permit had been renewed. In the letter, published on October 26, Arboiun also claimed the dolphins were attracting orcas or killer whales into the bay.

NEPA told the Observer yesterday that it was preparing a response to the committee.

For its part, Guardsman maintains that, as a condition of their permits from NEPA, itself and Dolphin Cove are subject to monthly and fortnightly independent water quality tests.

“Our water quality has improved tremendously since we have put in our treatment plant here,” Heron said, adding that, “Dolphin Cove does its own water quality testing and they have got excellent reports on water quality.”

The Observer requested copies of some of the water quality reports from both Dolphin Cove and NEPA but had not received any up to late last evening.

In a published letter responding to Arbouin on November 1, Dolphin Cove's chairman and CEO Stafford Burrowes said: “I have taken the time to review environmental monitoring reports from Dolphin Cove and find that water quality data from accredited labs also do not support the view that the water is contaminated.

“It is extremely untrue and inflammatory against the property,” Heron charged on Monday. “To put something like that in the press is irresponsible and damning, and I hope she recognises too that that is something that will support our claim against hers.

“The fact is that dolphin waste serves as nutrients for a lot of the other marine life that is here. What we have seen happen over the time that they've been here — since May 2018 — is that the seagrass has come back into the bay, which is very healthy for the environment. The other tings is that the amount of marine life that has returned to the bay is amazing. We're talking thousands of fish in the bay, which we never had before,” Heron, a scuba diving instructor, told the Observer.

“Killer whales don't come into these waters. Even if you see them off the coast it's because they're migrating to colder waters because they don't like warm waters. In all my years of diving I've never seen an orca in Jamaican waters,” she continued.

Heron conceded that wild dolphins have come into the bay, ostensibly because they are attracted to the calls of the others, as well as the leftover food.

“They come, they look, and they leave. They are very curious animals.”

“But as for 'slimy' and 'nasty', I don't know where this lady gets her info. I don't know where she is getting this from, and, in fact, if this is happening it would not be because of the dolphins. It would be because of any other waste matter that is coming into this water. And I happen to know that surveys have been done and unfortunately there are people who don't have proper septic treatment, and a lot of it is coming from up the hill,” said Heron.

As for the dolphin waste, the Guardsman Hospitality general manager said it is impossible for the dophins to produce as much waste as the CDC claims, especially since “when a dolphin poops it comes out like a puff of cloud. It's an almost liquid-like”.

Experts at describe dolphin poop as “very important for the ocean's ecosystem and for the healthy growth and production of a variety of organisms such as phytoplankton and/or fish that survive off of eating these organisms”.

Still, it recognises that the enclosed spaces and the chemical treatment of water in dolphinaria can create adverse effects.

NEPA recognises it too, outlining in its 2003 Policy towards Dolphin Conservation in Jamaica that:

“In the wild, dolphins are constantly moving, and as such there is no accumulation of waste in their environment, as opposed to artificial environments. However, in captivity they remain in the same enclosure at all times and depending on the facility the water must be cleaned using chlorine which may be harmful to the animals (Rose, 2003). In the case of lagoon facilities, such as the ones in the Caribbean, this increase of waste may have detrimental effects on coral reefs found in the vicinity of the enclosure. Increase in nitrogen in the water could lead to algal growth and eventual smothering of the reef. In the wild this would not occur because there would be no build-up of waste since the mammals are highly migratory and would move constantly (Goreau, 2003).”

There has been discord between the Discovery Bay CDC and Guardsman since news emerged in 2018 that it was taking over management of the beach. In June this year the CDC lost its battle in the Supreme Court against the operators of the attraction and four State entities involved in the granting of beach licences and environmental permits.

Monday was the first time they had taken their protest to the beach.

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