24 November, 2007

Near Disaster

Dolphin Fantaseas. It was in June that I published the story about the illegal dolphin pens that were being constructed at the old long-abandoned Mariners Hotel in Sandy Ground [link here]. Readers will recall the story. The Dolphin Discovery or Dolphin Fantaseas people had been given notice by Viceroy to vacate the property which had been bought at Barnes Bay. Dolphin Fantaseas sold, but without making full arrangements to relocate.

They made an arrangement with the owners of the Mariners Hotel site to construct a new pen and display facility at Sandy Ground.

When the locals began to complain that they wanted to know the environmental impact such a facility would have on their health, the Chief Minister stopped the construction in mid-stride.

The pilings that had begun to be hammered into the sea bed were pulled out of the sand and piled on the beach.

They stayed there all during the hurricane season, a disaster waiting to happen. Now November is here. What we in Anguilla call the Ground Sea Season. Huge swells rise up in the ocean and fling ten-foot high waves onto the beaches. [For the peace of mind of anyone not in the know, if the waves make the beach impossible on the north coast, the south coast is usually placid as a lake, and vice versa]. Yesterday the inevitable happened.

About ten of the pilings were washed out into the bay.

This “bay” is the busiest port in Anguilla. There are over fifty yachts anchored in it at any time. Only one hundred feet away from the pilings is the main jetty. This is where the cargo ships that bring all our foods and construction materials dock. A ten-foot piling driven by a wave into the side of any one of these vessels might be expected to do some damage. We have all been holding our breaths to see whether the poles can be extracted from the water without anyone or any ship being damaged. Our Disaster Preparedness personnel secured most of them by last night. This morning they are scheduled to remove the last of them from the water. I can hear the surge from the north coat even from where I live. Let us hope that no one is killed or injured in the exercise!

Even if the poles are safely lassoed and removed from the bay, questions remain.

Was there no agency with the authority to order their removal before the hurricane season or the subsequent ground sea season began?

Did we have to wait until they were washed out to sea?

Would it not have been less costly to have moved them to a place of safety further onto the abandoned Mariners property?

If you or I left debris in our yard and it floated out to sea, would not the police be on our front step with a summons to appear in court?

If a tenant leaves a mess behind, is it not the responsibility of the landlord to clean up?

Who is going to pay the cost of the rescue exercise?

Who is providing this “investor” with the protection to be able to get away for so long with such deplorable conduct?


  1. That's OK, we'll just find a next location for the dolphins, because they provide employment. Since no Anguillians are unemployed, the foreign company can hire foreign workers and...and that's good for the economy or something, isn't it? I don't really understand it but the goal in life -- our national life I mean -- is to have more development.

    I don't really understand it but that's what Hubert told me. Hubert wouldn't lie to me.

  2. You make good points, as always, Don.

    As a minimum Government must give Mariners or Dolphin Discovery a full bill, including overtime pay and danger money, for the time and effort needed to avert what could be a man-made disaster. A prosecution would also be appropriate.

    Why should we taxpayers pick up their tab?

    Besides paying that bill promptly, Mariners and/or Dolphin Discovery should give a public apology to the people and visitors to Anguilla and make sure it is put and remains on their respective web sites.

    It is their negligence which caused this (plus some negligence on the part of the gov’t for not following up). It shows disrespect to our island's people, public beaches, seas and their users.

  3. According to their website, the Dolphin Discovery formerly operating in Antigua and the Dolphin Discovery here in Anguilla are both owned by the same people in Mexico, sometimes operating as Dolphin Fantaseas.

    Here's the respect they showed the government and people of Antigua when they were forced to remove their dolphins to Tortola:

    The Daily Observer - Antigua
    Tuesday, November 30, 2004


    The owners of the Marina Bay property which housed Dolphin Discovery has claimed that the operators of the business ransacked and stole personal items from his property.

    Norman Wexelman said that after the dolphins were removed on Saturday, the operators of Dolphin Discovery agreed that they would clean up the property and work on getting the dolphins back to Antigua. Wexelman said that the manager, Carlos Moreno, assured him that the building, as well as the exterior of the property, would be properly cleaned. He said Moreno assured him that only a few items from the establishment such as the park's sale materials and other personal items would be removed to Moreno's home.

    However, Wexelman said on Sunday, he got a call from the security guard telling him that three trucks had removed a number of items from the Marina Bay property. When he went to investigate, Wexelman said he found his property in a mess.

    "When I came, I saw that generators were missing, the freezer room was ransacked and the building was left in a terrible state," he said. "They went into the freezer room where all the fish were kept and dumped all the frozen dead fish into the pond where the dolphins were. That water is now contaminated. It's disgusting," Wexelman said.

    The property owner said he immediately contacted the police and reported the incident.

    "I am definitely going to make sure these persons are held accountable for what they have done", he said. "They are irresponsible and they have acted very irresponsibly from the start".

    Wexelman noted that he had no idea they would have vandalized his property as he and Moreno have always been on friendly terms.

  4. Thanks for this news from what happened in Antigua - they managed to keep this quiet from everyone in Anguilla till now.

    I just came off the phone to a friend in Antigua who confirms the report and that when the dolphin people finally left it was done quickly and that they ended up owing quite a bit of money to some people who are unlikely to be ever paid.

    What they did in Antigua and now in Anguilla is no joke - it's a nightmare. They are not the kind of people you want as neigbours.

  5. It just seems that the Gov't is afraid to bump heads with these wealthy investors. Why are they allowing this reckless and dangerous behavoiur to continue without and sanctions or penalties? Are we that foolish? What is the Environmental angency doing? Who are these people who are supposed to protect us from this type of craziness? Have they no backbone at all to stand up to big business? If they cannot do the job replace them with someone who will.

  6. It is very difficlut to replace civil servants. The whole system needs reforming. All civil servants should be made to sign a minimum of 3, 5 or 10 year contracts.

    THose who cannot do the job must be rooted out. It seems no wonder is ever accountable whenever these issues arise. I am tired of them blaming politicians when we have no public record of department heads expressing a concern about such issues.

    Nothing in General Orders prevent them from expressing an expert opinion. All the money being pump in these department and not one of them can't even publich a newsletter to edcuate us about relevant information.

    Unless there is change, these people are not ready for the technological age. The Aussies got rid of Howard, I hope we can get rid of these dinausaurs keeping Anguilla in the stone age.

  7. If the dolphin company were paying off people in high places, this entire affair would make a lot more sense, wouldn't it?

    Of course, in Anguilla all of us are good Christians driven only by love of our neighbours, so the corruption we hear about on every other island is clearly impossible on ours.

    The United Front Manifesto told me so. :)

  8. Someone said on the Anguilla Talk Forum this morning that the dolphin manager, "Alex," is telling people they will reopen in March.

    How does this Alex get this information? What government official is giving him guarantees?

    Wherever they reopen, whether at the same location or elsewhere, they will need an alien land holding license, whether they own the property or lease it.

    Such licenses are authorised by the Ministers/ExCo. Who is making promises to Alex about what the Ministers will do? No civil servant could know that or say that. I don't think the Governor has made some secret deal with Alex. If Alex is telling the truth, that leaves only the four Ministers themselves.

  9. Hubert said in the House of Assembly a few weeks ago that government must protect businesses like the dolphins from being victimised and pushed out by big developers.

    Dolphin Discovery sold their property to Viceroy. No one forced them to do that. If I sell you my house, take your money and then refuse to move out, who is being victimised, you or me?

  10. Why are we so focused on the Dolphins? They are not the problem, it's the officials who allow them to run rampant in our cummunity. Everybody seems to want to blame the Gov't, however, there are others who are in responsible position who seems reluctant to carry out their duties as required by their offices. It is these department heads who appear not to grasp the serousness of the situation. They have to act independently of the Gov't, after all they do have the authority to make sure that these businesses operate within the guidelines set forth. We are acting irresponsibly by blaming the entire messy affair on the Gov't or the businesses. Where are the opposition members in all this? Why are they so mute on this point? They need to get up off their lazy behinds and represent our interests. We can force change by actively protesting and applying pressure on these public officials who are derelict in the duties and obligations. Why do we fear them, afterall they cannot do to us anything worst than they are doing now, can they?

    A concerted effort is needed to rout out this lunacy with positivity and proper management. It is known who the culprits are that destroy and degrade our environment, perhaps we need to picket them and boycott their businesses to send a message to them that we are serious. The time has come for action and if we are a people of action and not just talk ,then take a stand for the protection of Anguilla.

    I am not against investors or their businesses but instead am championing a cause to make them pay their dues and own up to their responsiblities .It is evident that we are sadly lacking in crucial enforcement of penalties so we have to get with the programm and get to work. Executing the duties of your office does not a devil make but a good steward. Yes your decisions might make you unpopular but that’s ok that’s what you are swore to do and what you are being paid to do.

    We welcome investors in our midst but they have to know and understand that they are obligated to abide by our laws not any concocted rule they invent. If they violate the laws and regulations of our country there are consequences for such errant behaviour. We have to apply the law justly and across the table equitably no matter how affluent or politically connected that individual or business is.

    Justice is not partial nor reserved just for the lesser among us but is applied equally to all.

  11. On 19 July 2007 it was determined that the pilings on the beach were the responsibility of Disaster Management, and they were made aware of the problem. I would have thought they could have made Dolphin Discovery or Dr. Bardfield or whoever was responsible take appropriate action by making a phone call or two.

    They did nothing effective until four months later, when it became an emergency.

    More could have been done in July if Anguilla had a newspaper.

  12. There is an excellent environmental prosecutor, Paul Mooij, now unemployed and living in St. Maarten. His outstanding and courageous work has made him a hero among those across the water who care about their island.

    If our Government wanted to do something useful about the environment they could offer him a job. His Dutch law degree and background may not allow him to practice law here as a prosecutor but he is also a superb investigator.

    He should at attached to the Attorney General's Chambers where he could function without political interference, not in the Police Department.


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