POINT, Hanover - The $1-billion marine theme park being built on a 20-acre seafront property in this northwestern community by Dolphin Cove is scheduled to open within the next eight months.
Last Thursday, the developers of the facility broke ground for the first phase of the project, which is expected to cost $500,000,000 and will on completion provide employment for more than 200 persons.
Managing director of Dolphin Cove Limited, Stafford Burrows (second left), and permanent secretary in the ministry of tourism Jennifer Griffith (third left) break ground for the $1-billion Marine Theme Park at Point, Hanover, while president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association Wayne Cummings (left), opposition spokesman on tourism Wykeham McNeil (fourth left), and director general at the ministry of tourism Carole Guntley look on. (Photo: Philip Lemonte)
The park, which is to be sited midway between the resort towns of Montego Bay and Negril, comes in the wake of exhaustive calls by the cruise shipping industry for more such attractions.
Dolphin Cove operates commercially successful locations in Ocho Rios, St Ann and Montego Bay.
The company's managing director, Stafford Burrows, said at the ground-breaking ceremony that the new attraction will be the largest marine park in the western hemisphere.
"Montego Bay and the western region have always needed a marquis attraction. The cruise ships berthing in Montego Bay have been sending its passengers to Ocho Rios. The hotel guests in Negril have had to spend six hours in a bus to travel to Ocho Rios and return and so this first-class attraction we are building will enhance the western Jamaica destination," Burrows said.
He noted that in addition to the interactive dolphin tours, the facility will offer a raft of other mini attractions, designed to keep the visitors there longer and cater to a variety of needs.
"The project, in addition to the dolphins, will have a lazy river, ecological mangrove tour, crocodiles and camel riding," he noted.
The facility, Burrows added, is being designed to facilitate Dolphin Human Therapy (DHT), which involves the use of dolphins to provide positive reinforcement to children with special needs.
"It (DHT) is an international programme that has been able to help participants from all over the world. Motivation and confidence are critical for success in almost anything. For the special needs populations, it is hard to imagine anything more motivating than working with dolphins," he explained.
The massive tourist development was given the thumbs up late last year by the National Environment Planning Agency, when developers received a coastal modification certificate.
At that time, Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust Diana McCaulay told the Sunday Finance that her organisation was against the development. "Broadly, we are opposed to having dolphins in captivity for a number of reasons. On the environmental side, they are taking animals from the wild in the absence of proper population studies and we don't know the effect of that on the wild population," she argued.
But on Thursday, the developers were lauded by stakeholders in the tourism sector for undertaking the development despite "these challenging times".
"The development is a business decision taken in challenging times and it is a strong testament to the confidence that the principals of this enterprise have in our country's ability to weather the current economic storm and to move on to the growth and future development of the tourism industry," said Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett.
"Putting down this kind of investment in these times is not just putting your money where your mouth is, it is courageous," added Bartlett, in a message delivered by permanent secretary in the ministry of tourism, Jennifer Griffith.
He noted that the theme park will be an important addition to the variety of tourism attractions in the island.
President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association Wayne Cummings, who was also in attendance at the ceremony, described the move by the developers as " proactive".
He said that the attraction will complement the room stock in the western region, arguing that the economic spin-offs from it will be significant.
Opposition spokesman on tourism, Dr Wykeham McNeil; director general in the ministry of tourism, Carole Guntley; mayor of Lucea, Lloyd Hill; and newly elected president of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce, Horace Wright also lauded the developers of the project.
Negatives: Dolphins captured from natural environment subjected to illness & stress of exposure to endless parade of tourists. Although it is good to hear that they are looking at helping special needs children. Hopefully, it will be priced for Jamaican families to visit (unlike Negril waterpark).
People need jobs -- yes, yes! -- but I wish the emphasis was on rebuilding the reef and fish populations. That would also increase tourism to Jamaica, which is not high on the list of diving destinations in the Caribbean.
For the cost of a scuba certification, no need to leave the resort to see dolphins.
Yes this does creat jobs, but at what cost? Here is excerpt from a article on the Humane Society's web page. We have gone around and around with this one before. I agree with leoconner, the reefs in Jamaica need protection first.
What must life be like for these complex, gregarious, three-dimensional creatures who suddenly find themselves in a comparatively bland, isolated, two-dimensional enclosure? And what of the capture process itself? It violently disrupts social groups, splits up families, and snatches individual animals from the water; it is a completely unnatural event. Capture stress can be very severe and even fatal. And the act of capturing betrays the trust of dolphins in particular, who often come to play at the bow of the capture boat, only to be netted and hauled aboard, an incredibly traumatic ending to an innocent and joyous behavior.
At first look, a whale or dolphin show may seem exciting, even for the animals. But when you look past the show to the high mortality rates and stress-related causes of death in captive whales and dolphins, the effects of captivity suggest a far harsher reality. The public display of whales and dolphins in marine parks and aquaria is waning in Europe and Canada, but it is still prevalent in the United States and is increasing in developing countries, particularly those in Asia.
There was a few articles about making Lucea the next tourist area similar to Ochos Rios, Montego Bay, Negril. There was pro's and Con's presented on the proposal from the locals. I guess Lucea has an interesting history. http://www.luceajamaicatravelguide.com/
The Resort there is massive and we were somewhat taken by the size of the resort when construction first started. I would be curious as to their occupancy ratings since opening.
Like anything it is the economy that drives a country and its development. Tourism is a major factor in Jamaica's economy.
Is it good to expand Jamaica's tourism and resort capability? As long as the price is reasonable and we are welcomed as visiting guests with a safe environment I'll support them.
Building a Dolphin Cove in Lucea will bring out the pro's and con's.
I think it would be a plus for the local economy and at the same time I hear the concerns over the animals welfare. But what do I know. I've been involved with environmental laws for many years but still enjoy hunting and fishing.
I think the motivation has numerous aspects.
2. Tourism to stimulate local economy.
4. Added attraction facility for the western end of the island to support future developement.
I think it will become an asset for Jamaica and the area and I believe the concerns that will be raised over animal rights will be pacified.
We've been to Dolphin Cove in Ocho Rios, and I have to say I was very impressed with the quality of the operation. I do not know how they procur their wildlife, but they are very well cared for and seem very happy (to anthropomorphize, of course). The groups for the encounters are small, and the dolphins seem to have ample room in which to live and "play."
I understand that there are those who will always be opposed to animals in captivity or service to man, but I don't think that's incredibly realistic. One of the best ways, in my opinion, to raise awareness of the these animals in the wild is to increase exposure, and that often can only happen in captive situations.
I've traveled all over the world, and I have seen animals used (and misused and abused) in a variety of situations. I don't think we should really go off the rails here and compare this to the existence of, say, donkeys in the Mediterranean and North Africa, elephants who are being systematically hunted for ivory, etc. I remember seeing a "world-class" zoo in Mexico City decades ago that left a very lasting impression on me for the cramped conditions, stifling heat and generally depressing atmosphere.
I refuse to see this as anthing but a positive development. It will bring jobs, increase awareness of the wonderful animal diversity in our world, increase tourism, create lasting memories for many people and provide a safe home for many aminals.