Thanks to push back from animal advocates and a petition that gained over 65,000 signatures, a dolphinarium holding eight captive dolphins in the Bahamas has been ordered to shut down and release its animals by a court.
What's more, the presiding judge raised questions as to whether it's legal for anyone to import dolphins in the Bahamas for purposes other than research -- a groundbreaking conversation for the country, which relies on tourism to fuel its economy.
The facility, which planned on opening Blackbeard's Cay a tourist attraction featuring captive dolphins, received its eight dolphins from Honduras last year and would've been the fourth one like it in the country.
But the recent ruling found that the prime minister, the minister of agriculture and several others violated the law when they granted a permit to the company that would own the park, Blue Illusions Limited. The court sided with the local group reEarth, who argued that the project was carried out under secrecy and important details were not released to the public. They also noted that the animals were imported before permits to do so were obtained, violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Besides questioning the legality of dolphin imports at all, Justice Stephen Isaacs also ordered the company to restore the area to its former state (it now contains rows of sea pens).
Blue Illusions Limited still has the chance to appeal the decision in the coming weeks. But for now, activists are celebrating the milestone achievement.
"I am thrilled," Sam Duncombe, president of reEarth, told The Nassau Guardian. "We've been fighting this issue for 24 years and finally we've been able to bring one of the developers with dolphins in captivity to court over the circumvention of the Marine Mammal Protection Act."