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Report: Cayman's Animal Welfare Agency Kept in the Dark About Captive Sharks

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands -- Despite being charged with the welfare of animals in the Cayman Islands, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was kept in the dark about captive sharks.

That revelation comes days after news broke here that six sharks were found dead at the Boatswain's Beach tourist attraction in Grand Cayman in July.

Prior to being placed in a predator tank as part of the West Bay facility's attraction, the sharks died but that information was only released to the media last week.

Managing Director of Boatswain's Beach Kenneth Hydes said the two tanks that held the sharks malfunctioned, causing the water quality to be affected.

Mr Hydes said that more sharks would be acquired for the predator tanks, adding that they were a key component to the company's exhibit.

Carolyn Parker, a member of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, said her committee knew nothing about sharks in captivity in the Islands.

"We really didn't know because not all the animals were given to us. We have discussed other animals in captivity but not sharks," she said.

"I found out when I read the papers. I didn't know they were here and now they have passed away."

Ms Parker, who also holds the animal welfare portfolio as a Director of the Cayman Islands Humane Society, said the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee met on 8 November but the shark matter never came up.

She has expressed concerns about captive animals in the Islands, saying that her organization wanted to ensure that there would not be a repetition.

"We are going to meet in January so since it came up in the newspaper I am sure it will be on the next agenda," she added.

The latest incident has the Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands movement disappointed and saddened after numerous attempts to get Government to ban captive facilities, including dolphinariums.

Billy Adam of the Keep Dolphins Free movement said there are no regulations for public display under the Animal Law.

According to him, it is a case of Government not following their laws and on some occasions even breaking them.

Mr Adam, who has been a strong critic of dolphinariums and other captive facilities here, said the marine captive industry is known for secrecy.

"It's typical of a lot these marine aquariums to hide the facts from the public. It's exactly what we have been speaking about for several years - this is how the industry operates," he said.

"The marine captive industry operates on secrecy and misinformation."

He lamented that the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has not drafted regulations for supervision and enforcement by the Agricultural Department.

According to him, the committee views the captive facilities as strictly as tourism amusement items.

President of the Cayman Islands Humane Society Giuseppe Gatta also expressed concerns about the sudden death of the sharks and the secrecy behind it.

"We are very concerned because we were not even aware that the sharks were here. It is the same issue with dolphins in captivity, why are we having sharks in captivity now?" he said.

"Why do we have to go in the wild and capture all these animals? I don't understand. What is the purpose of it?"

Mr Gatta said the Humane Society needs answers and would be pressing for them.

"We want to find out what is going on here, we have been kept in the dark. We are a member of the animal welfare group and we know nothing about it. Why are we keeping everything a secret?"

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