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January 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Cause of Pollution

from the January, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

About a year before my barracuda attack, local divers were complaining that some reefs were being smothered with algae. I was quickly able to find the source of the nutrients -- a captive dolphin pen inside the Cozumel marine park. Masses of algae typical of sewage outfalls covered the down current side of the enclosure, and were killing coral reefs up to a kilometer down current, but were completely absent from areas up-current. I made a documentary film showing the impact there, at another dolphinarium in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and at the Turtle Farm in Grand Cayman, to point out that if such small and local sources could produce such impacts, that of human sewage was vastly worse. You can see the film at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDT_q1LwGmA

The response of the Marine Park was to shoot the messenger and protect the coral killers rather than protect corals. They denied there was any problem, told the press that I knew nothing about corals or algae or water quality (all issues on which I have many scientific publications) and that I was a trouble maker trying to destroy their tourist industry. The head of the Cancun Isla Mujeres National Marine Park told me that I was not allowed to discuss my observations as this was a political matter, not a scientific one. When I insisted that there was a real problem that needed to be addressed, they cancelled all my projects restoring coral reefs in the marine parks that had run for around seven years.

Many or most of the dolphins had been imported from the Solomon Islands, in clear violation of another Mexican Federal law banning the introduction of any exotic species into National Marine Parks. But these laws were ignored because of the large revenues the marine parks get from licensing their waters to captive dolphin operators.

Thomas Goreau

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