The changes required included installing cooling systems to lower the water temperature in the dolphinarium pool; installing air conditioning in the main arena; raising the Ph level of the water; and the addition of a second pool.
An official from the Department of Fisheries who did not want to be named told The Phuket News, “We received notification from a company named Phuket Aqua about the dolphinarium in June 2014.
“They told us the building was completed late last year. However, after inspecting it our committee did not pass for it approval and changes were needed.
“The building has since been improved, and was approved by our office in May,” she said.
However, this does not mean that the facility has the official go ahead to open as a dolphinarium as the paperwork required for importing the dolphins has yet to be received, she added.
The concept of opening a dolphinarium in Phuket received much criticism, by island residents and by world-famous environmentalists groups such as Sea Shepherd.
In an open letter to the “Phuket Tourism Board” (presumably the Tourism Authority of Thailand) and the Fisheries Department, Sea Shepherd asserted that some of the dolphins bound for the Nemo dolphinarium are coming from Ukraine, but were originally captured off the Japanese fishing village of Taiji, site of an infamous annual slaughter of dolphins at “the Cove”. (See story here.)
According to the CITES convention, trade in dolphins is not allowed when: the import is for primarily commercial purposes or for purposes which are considered detrimental to the survival of the species; the export is considered to be detrimental to the survival of the species; the specimens have been obtained illegally; or the proposed recipient is not suitably equipped to house and care for the animals.
Meanwhile, the trade in bottlenose dolphins is allowed under certain conditions: the export must not be detrimental to the survival of the species and the animals must have been legally obtained and exported. Shipments must also be in accordance with the IATA Live Animal Regulations.
The official said, “We don’t know what type of dolphins they are or where they will come from yet, but many dolphins are imported from Japan. So the CITES documents must be checked carefully. “If they are found to breach the CITES convention then they will not be allowed.”
The official also explained that if they do allow the dolphins to be used at the dolphinarium, then officials from the Department of Fisheries will visit the venue every year to ensure standards are being maintained and met.