TULUM, Mexico – Urgent calls for lawmakers in Quintana Roo to enact protective legislation for over 450 captive dolphins in our region have been sounded by members of “Dolphins in Captivity in Mexico” and the “Alliance for Animal Welfare in Quintana Roo.” These dolphins endure not only the cruelty of separation from their young but also suffer from injuries inflicted by chlorinated water and sunburns. They bear fractures from being used as riding animals.
Moreover, the conditions in which they are kept pose a severe public health concern. Tourists venture into contaminated pools, exposed to fecal matter, and some have faced attacks by these highly stressed marine mammals. The companies profiting from the suffering of dolphins and other captive animals, under the guise of job creation, include Xcaret, Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras, Tulum, Akumal, as well as the Barceló and Bahía Príncipe hotels, among others. These establishments confine dolphins to chlorinated pools with harsh chemicals, causing burns and even blindness due to excessive sun exposure.
In a press conference attended by The Tulum Times, Mariel Tejeda Bravo, the coordinator of Empty the Tanks in Mexico, Andrea Martínez Zamora, the coordinator of Empty the Tanks in Quintana Roo, and Deputy Maritza Basurto highlighted that there are 18 dolphinariums in Quintana Roo, out of the 33 across the country. These facilities also house sea lions and manatees. As animal rights advocates, they have formed an alliance with the legislator to promote a reform presented to the State Congress, alongside other organizations, aiming to establish true sanctuaries for the rehabilitation and reintegration of marine mammals into their natural habitat.
During her address, Mariel Tejeda outlined five key points being addressed to transition from animal entertainment practices to a healthier coexistence for both animals and humans in their natural habitats.
The first point is to halt captive breeding, followed by discontinuing the use of concrete tanks that disrupt the ecology and genetic diversity of the species. Forced activities that harm the dolphins, such as riding or allowing people to kiss them, are also to be prohibited. Transparency is another critical element, as the information concerning the animals’ well-being is currently concealed, with dolphinariums failing to share it with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat). The final point emphasizes the need for genuine conservation and rehabilitation programs, including the use of sensors to monitor the animals’ distribution in the wild.
Tejeda disclosed that they have filed over 33 complaints with the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) in Mexico. These complaints are related to poor water quality, as dolphins defecate in the pools where people swim, and incidents of dolphin attacks on humans have been concealed.
Maritza Basurto added, “In Congress, I have proposed an initiative to recognize animals as sentient beings, elevating their rights to a constitutional level. This implies that all their rights are guaranteed within the legal framework as beings that suffer, feel, and have needs, and rights. For many years, it was believed that we had rights over them, to exploit and annihilate them.”
Alarming Reports of Deplorable Dolphin Conditions Surface in Puerto Aventuras
In the year 2020, the environmental organization Empty the Tanks shed light on the critical situation prevailing in some dolphin facilities in Cancún through a series of compelling videos. Aracely Domínguez, an eco-advocate, stated that to this day, no substantial response has been received from the concerned authorities.
The shocking imagery captured in Puerto Aventuras showcased a dolphin trapped amidst murky waters, tainted by the excrement of its fellow captives. This distressing scenario in Puerto Aventuras raises concerns that similar conditions may persist in other dolphin facilities without any accountability from regulatory bodies.
Aracely emphasized that the ongoing public health crisis led to the closure of these facilities, leaving these helpless creatures to fend for themselves. She urgently called for immediate action to address the plight of these voiceless beings.
Empty the Tanks referred to a research study conducted by the Global Coral Reef Alliance, revealing that a captive dolphin generates as much waste as 4-6 humans. In essence, a Dolphin Discovery enclosure housing 10-15 dolphins equates to wastewater equivalent to that produced by 40-90 individuals, all of which directly flow into the local water network without filtration.
“Prior to the pandemic, Dolphin Discovery employed approximately 100 staff members at its Puerto Aventuras location. Now, we’ve been informed that only 15 remain, and it is abundantly clear that the animals are bearing the brunt of this severe staffing shortage and lack of care,” Aracely stated.
Empty the Tanks collected water samples from the dolphin tanks at Dolphin Discovery Puerto Aventuras. The analysis revealed that the fecal matter levels in the water exceeded permissible limits for human activities by a staggering eightfold. This alarming data underscores the elevated fecal contamination in the water, a concern compounded by the fact that these samples were collected before the pandemic when customers were still allowed to swim with dolphins in these polluted waters.