The coral reefs of the Virgin Islands are one of the most beautiful underwater sights in the world. To stay alive, healthy, and beautiful, the reefs depend on the right balance and quality of the other marine life and seawater around them. Social, economic, and industrial stresses, if they are left unchecked, can cause the coral to die. When this happens, the colorful living coral colonies with their rich ecosystems of subaquatic animals and plants disappear. Only tiny, bleached coral skeletons are left.
A project to keep dolphins in captivity at Water Bay, St. Thomas, is endangering 250 coral colonies within the proposed enclosure area. The dolphin pens are planned as part of a marine park called Coral World and a “Swim with the Dolphins” program. Dr. Thomas Goreau, President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, as well as a biochemist and marine biologist with almost 60 years of firsthand experience of coral reefs, believes severe damage to the reef ecosystems in Water Bay will then be inevitable, due to pollution through dolphin excrement and rotting food.
However, there is an alternative that could help preserve the coral reefs, enhance tourism in the marine park and in the Virgin Islands as a whole, and avoid holding dolphins in captivity. Jason deCaires Taylor, world-renowned artist and sculptor, has proposed that Coral World replaces its proposed dolphin pen project with artificial reef sculptures depicting the culture and history of the US Virgin Islands. Elsewhere in the tourism sector, Regent Seven Seas and Carnival UK cruise lines, both serving the Virgin Islands, have already decided not to operate tours involving interaction with captive dolphins.
The underwater reef sculptures would allow Water Bay to flourish and sustain the Virgin Islands tourism industry by keeping the coral reef intact. They would also generate positive publicity. As an example, Taylor’s “underwater museum” sculpture attraction recently generated more than $30 million in free press for the Canary Islands. Taylor has also decided to offer Coral World a discount if it denounces its destructive dolphin pen project and chooses the sculptures.
We ask you to sign and share this petition to show your support for the protection and preservation of the coral reefs of the Virgin Islands, to declare your intention that you will not participate in the Swim with the Dolphins program proposed by Coral World, and to confirm that you support the eco-friendly sculpture project instead.