Sam Duncombe, the director of reEarth, a Bahamian grassroots organization that was behind the closure of another SWTD facility in the Bahamas last year, disagrees with some of Charbeneau's claims. Born and raised in the area, Duncombe told The Dodo she's been fighting against the development of dolphinariums - including the Atlantis - for nearly 25 years.
"[The Katrina dolphins] were bought, not rescued," Duncombe says. "It was greenwashing in a big way." Duncombe also maintains that the cells the dolphins are in are "horrible."
"When I saw what they had built [for the dolphins], I cried," she said. "The bloody fish in the aquarium have more than [them], with corals and rocks. These dolphins just have bare white concrete pools."
In fact, Duncombe's concern about the depth of the pools is shared by scientist Naomi Rose, from AWI, who says that dolphins routinely dive to 60 feet.
Ten feet, she argues, "is far too shallow!"
All aboard: the role of the cruise ship
How did dolphinariums in the Caribbean get so popular? In short: the cruise ship. "Every proposal for a new swim-with-dolphin facility was premised on the need to meet the demand from cruise ship tourism," says Rose, who notes the trend really took off in the 2000s. Some dolphinariums, she points out, don't even have parking lots: Tourists simply debark, swim with the cetaceans, then re-board their giant boat.