Mexico's dolphinariums come under criticism from activists

AP News
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Posted: Feb 27, 2015 4:56 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Environmental and animal-rights groups in Mexico are training their sights on the growing number of "swim with dolphins" enclosures on the nation's coasts.

The movement scored its first victory Thursday, when federal regulators said they had ordered a dolphinarium closed just south of the resort city of Cancun closed because it had not filed an environmental impact statement.

The facility operated by Grupo Dolphin Discovery said it had been operating for two years with all appropriate permits. But it acknowledged it had only filed its impact statement in January.

Environmentalists in the coastal town of Puerto Morelos have complained that the dolphinarium is in a protected area.

On Friday, the animal-rights group PETA and other organizations sent a letter to Mexican authorities asking that dolphin businesses be included under a Quintana Roo state law that bans the use of animal acts in circuses. Most of Mexico's Caribbean coast is in Quintana Roo.

PETA said dolphins at such sites suffer stress from how they are held. Dolphins at the facilities are kept inside fenced pens in shallow ocean waters, usually surrounded by boardwalks that let visitors enter the enclosure. PETA's director of animal law, Jared Goodman, said dolphins in their natural habitat often swim dozens of miles a day.

A Quintana Roo state law passed in December prohibits "public or private circus shows, fixed or travelling, in which wild or domestic animals are used for entertainment."

A federal law passed this year states that "it is prohibited to use marine mammals in travelling shows."

Israel Urbina, spokesman for Grupo Dolphin Discovery, which operates eight dolphinariums on Mexico's Caribbean coast, denied the dolphins suffer in the enclosures and said the Puerto Morelos facility was shut down "by mutual agreement" between regulators and operators.

Urbina said the recently passed laws do not apply to dolphinariums.

"It is not the same, because we don't do shows," Urbina said. "We are not circuses."