Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Gert van Dijken, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Gert van Dijken, Editor
Edition 140
December 1, 2003

Last Update December 1, 2003

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- Press Release: Isla Cozumel Presents Maribeth Mellin with "The Golondrina Award"
  • By: "Marcia Rowland"
  • Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2003 10:12:45 -0500

COZUMEL, Mexico (Nov. 3, 2003) - Isla Cozumel, the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, presented San Diego-based travel writer Maribeth Mellin with the first ever Golondrina Award, on Oct. 18, at an awards ceremony at this year's annual Gala Cozumel event, honoring the contributions of travel industry partners. The Golondrina award, created to honor North American travel writers and photo journalists, was given to Mellin in recognition of her continued dedication and journalistic contribution to the island of Cozumel.

Covering Cozumel since 1986, Maribeth Mellin, a member of the Mexican Writers Alliance and Society of American Travel Writers, has written numerous feature articles about the destination highlighting the island's beauty, culture and ecology. Mellin's articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country and she currently has a monthly column, "Report from Mexico," in the San Diego Union Tribune. Mellin has also extensively written and contributed to several guidebooks covering the region, including the Frommer's and Fodor's series, Traveler's Mexico Companion, Access Mexico and The Unofficial Guide to Mexico's Beach Resorts, all of which contained in-depth coverage of Cozumel. For her guidebooks, Mellin has received several honors including Mexico's prestigious "Pluma de Plata" award and the Sand Diego Press Club's Best of Show award.

"When I first visited the island in the early 1980's, I camped on the sand at Playa San Francisco and felt perfectly safe and serene. When I wasn't snorkeling in the astonishingly clear silky sea I learned 'canciones' from Cozumelenos at palapa-covered restaurants on the beach," said Mellin. "A Yucatecan hammock became my favorite bed, achiote my favorite spice. Cozumel felt like home." As Cozumel's top contributing travel writer this year, Mellin was hosted by Cozumel and attended Gala 2003, where she was awarded with a statue handcrafted in the shape of a golondrina, the Spanish word for swallow. Mellin's work was displayed at the awards ceremony and in a special exhibit at the Museum of the Island of Cozumel.

"For years, North American travel writers have provided comprehensive exposure on Isla Cozumel, and we wanted to recognize Maribeth Mellin, for her contribution and her vision and confidence in our island," said Gaston Cantarell Diaz, president of the Isla Cozumel Hotel Association and private sector representative for the tourism promotion board. "As Cozumeleños, we take pride in the beauty and spirit of our island, and we are thrilled that U.S. journalists are spreading the word." Named "Cuzamil" by the Maya who inhabited it more than 2,000 years ago, Isla Cozumel or "land of the swallows" is located in the state of Quintana Roo, east of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cozumel, approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, has an international snorkeling and diving reputation with the world's second-largest reef network featuring limestone caves, tunnels and rare black coral. Cozumel Reefs National Park, a protected 30,000-acre national area covering 85 percent of the island's dive sites and embracing the southern section of Cozumel, was created in 1996 for the purpose of conserving, monitoring and researching the reef formation and its natural habitat. In 2002 a U.S. News & World Report travel agent survey recognized Isla Cozumel as the North American/Caribbean destination offering the best vacation value. Visit Cozumel on the World Wide Web at

  • Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2003 11:02:50 -0400 (Atlantic Standard Time)







 In an effort to protect the marine environment of Antigua and Barbuda by prevention of   mass dolphin captures by foreigners  in  Antigua, an  application  was recently filed in the Antigua High Court   against the Attorney General of  Antigua  and Barbuda,  as the representative of the Government,  for issuing  said license,  to  John Mezzonette , the American who was granted the capture license,  and  Dolphin Fantaseas,  Inc. , a foreign owned Company .


This company has been enmeshed in controversy and international protests from nearly 10 million people since before opening its doors in December 2001.   In addition,   the  founder of the company, and initially the  primary shareholder,  American,  Dr Graham Simpson,  has been  under  investigation by the US Treasury   which has lead to  major international press coverage  including the front pages of the   MIAMI HERALD and  more recently the front page of the  Reno  Gazette.    


  The legal action has been taken by   ABITPC (Antigua and Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corporation), a local non profit organization whose objectives include preservation of the environment. The organization has run two nation wide clean up campaigns in 2001 and 2002,  which brought  out some 15,000 volunteers to clean up the island.    


 ABITPC has a membership of over 500 members.    This legal case is especially concerned with the impact that the wild dolphin capture program will have on the marine environment.


In January 2001, behind closed doors and unknown to the public, the Antigua Cabinet granted a license to one Mr. John Mezzanotte for the annual capture of up 12 wild dolphins in Antigua and Barbuda waters.    Mezzanotte was, and possibly  still is,  a shareholder of DOLPHIN FANTASEA in Anguilla,   a company which opened doors in Antigua  with a second captive dolphin swim program in December 2001.   


 ABITPC has retained the legal services of prominent Antigua lawyer and

  Environmentalist, John Eli Fuller.     Fuller stated, “The people of this country are entitled to have the rights conferred on them as specified in the Rio Convention, which the government has ratified. In that Convention the government of this country, on behalf of the people of Antigua and Barbuda, agreed not to allow the capture of any marine species without an impact assessment and by implication, a population study.  These obligations have been ignored in the cabinet decision and   therefore it is contended that the permission does not   have any lawful validity.” 


  It is also contended that the actual importation into Antigua of three dolphins in December 2001 by Dolphin Fantaseas Inc., was in breach of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) .


  The special interest  group is gravely concerned over the government permission to allow Dolphin Fantaseas, the company operating the swim with the dolphins program at Marina Bay, and holding 3 wild caught Cuban dolphins (Hippo, Zuz and Luna) in captivity, to capture wild dolphins from Antigua and Barbuda  waters.   It is felt the captured dolphins will be used to develop additional swim programs on other islands and sold on the international market for profit at the   expense of the Antiguan marine environment.   Dolphins are presently purchased from Cuba for no less than $50,000 US each.    


 This same permission for the capture of 12 wild dolphins is also being sought by Dolphin Fantaseas from the Governments of    Anguilla and St Lucia, where major protests   against this had been organized through The St Lucia Animal Protection Society (SLAPS).         The head of this organization,  Jane Tipson  OF  St Lucia  was  brutally  murdered  on  September 17th   and according to  the LONDON TIMES , Sunday, Sep 21st, the murder   may be connected to her  environmental  protests.            


 Prior to taking  legal action   Lawyer Fuller    delivered an official letter to Prime Minister Lester Bird of Antigua  in regard to the permission the government granted   to capture 12 wild dolphins annually.    Specifically, a demand  was made to rescind the permission for  the dolphin captures   based on the following reasons.     

  1. Dolphins are included in the definition of fish in Section 2 of the Fisheries Act Cap 173 and as such cannot be captured “fished” by a non-national in   Antiguan waters unless licensed.  The principal beneficiaries, Dolphin Fantaseas,   are non-nationals.
  2. There are populations of several dolphin species in the exclusive economic zone of Antigua and Barbuda.  The decision is unspecific as to species and is; in any event,   in breach of the Antiguan government’s international and domestic obligations under the Rio Convention (which the Antiguan government has ratified -  The instrument of ratification was signed by the Prime Minister on Feb. 23rd 1993 – the Sadi convention was signed on behalf of the  Government  of  A&B on June  4th 1992 ) to ensure that population studies and impact assessments have been finalized before any species are targeted or depleted. No such study or assessment has been done.
  3.    It is felt that it is reprehensible that in spite of the fact that the Antiguan government led the negotiations leading to the creation and signing of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol (SPAW Protocol) under the Cartagena Convention and was the first nation to sign the said Protocol, that to date, some eight years later, the government has failed to ratify the Protocol. Under the said Protocol all species of cetacea are given full protection from capture, possession and trade.  Notwithstanding the above, the government has sanctioned, supported and assisted the creation of a captive dolphin swim facility in Antigua and encouraged the capture of wild dolphins.


A decision was made to take legal action when no response was forthcoming from the letter Fuller delivered to the Prime Minister. 


Public Relations  Officer  for  ABITPC   Martha Watkins Gilkes  commented  that  the membership  is totally  behind this move as  all members are  avid conservationists.    Ironically  one of the highest medals awarded in Antigua and Barbuda,  which demonstrates the nation’s stewardship of the seas, is the  Most Illustrious Order of  Merit, which depicts four free dolphins and  3 palm trees signifying freedom for the  mammals  to swim between Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda.


Gilkes  added    “ those     in the  captive dolphin trade  like to refer to us as  “animal activists”  as if  it is something  negative to  be concerned about nature and  the creatures of  the sea.   I consider myself, instead,   a conservationist and an environmentalist.    In my mind, there can be no greater calling in this world than to protect nature and our   precious environment.   This legal action is being taken towards this end.”  






ABITPC strongly opposes the removal of dolphins from the wild in the waters of Antigua and Barbuda.   After consultation with marine mammal experts, specifically, Dr. Naomi Rose, Marine Mammal Scientist, Humane Society of United States, Dr.  Toni Frohoff, Scientific Consultant to the Humane Society of the United States, and the United Kingdom Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, ABITPC takes this stand for the following reasons:    


  1.  To our knowledge there has never been a population study done to determine the number of wild dolphins in or around the waters of Antigua and Barbuda. Therefore we have no basis for determining the impact this removal will cause. Without such studies any international trade would  violate CITES rules as there would be no basis for making a non-detriment finding, required for all Appendix II species ( which includes dolphins).  CITES member states (which include Antigua and Barbuda) are required to adhere to this requirement.


2.  Captures can present dangers to the wild population.

            The capture of even a few animals can result in the death or injury of many more dolphins, since the capture activities involve intensive harassment of a group or groups.  In addition, it negatively impacts dolphin populations by removing breeding members from the group.  The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)  in the United States acknowledges that “The animals removed from the wild for permanent maintenance in captivity often represent only a proportion of the total take [‘take’ being defined under U.S. law as killing, injuring, or harassing] during a live capture operation” (NMFS 1989, p. 33). 


3.      Removal of dolphins from the wild can be harmful to the marine ecosystem and result in unknown ecological ramifications, especially when so little is known about the populations, such as is the case for the Wider Caribbean region (Ward et al. 2001).  Dolphins, as top-level predators, play an important and beneficial role in the health of fish populations, the value of which we are only beginning to understand.  Dolphin predation on fish species which are predators of other types of fish may likely play an important role in the health of fisheries.

Swim with the Dolphins programs are especially problematic as female dolphins are usually preferred for these programs; (females are typically less aggressive towards humans than male dolphins).   Many studies of wildlife populations (e.g. Oldfield 1988) have demonstrated that removal of female dolphins can produce seriously harmful consequences to animal populations over the long term.


 In the recent meeting of the World Conservation Union (also called the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) a highly respected international organization,   2002-2010 Conservation Action Plan for the World's Cetaceans,   it was determined: 


Removal of live cetaceans from the wild, for captive display and/or research, is equivalent to incidental or deliberate killing, as the animals brought into captivity (or killed during capture operations) are no longer available to help maintain their natural populations.  When unmanaged and undertaken without a rigorous program of research and monitoring, live-capture can become a serious threat to local cetacean populations.  All too often, entrepreneurs take advantage of lax (or non-existent) regulations in small island states or less-developed countries, catching animals from populations that are already under pressure from by-catch, habitat degradation, and other factors. 



As a general principle, dolphins should not be captured or removed from a wild population unless that specific population has been assessed and it has been determined that a certain amount of culling can be allowed without reducing the population's long-term viability or compromising its role in the ecosystem.  Such an assessment, including delineation of stock boundaries, abundance, reproductive potential, mortality, and status (trend) cannot be achieved quickly or inexpensively, and the results should be reviewed by an independent group of scientists before any captures are made." (p. 17)


Reeves, Randall R., Smith, Brian D., Crespo, Enrique A. and Notarbartolo di Sciara, Giuseppe (compilers).  2003. Dolphins, Whales and Porpoises:  2002-2010 Conservation Action Plan for the World's Cetaceans.  IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group.  IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. xi + 139 pp.




Antigua has already received extensive negative international publicity from the dolphin swim program in but not limited to the following publications: the Miami Herald, the London Observer, the Reno Gazette, the New York Times.    The initiation of captures, in this day of strong eco tourism and environmental protection could result in much more negative publicity which could do damage to the tourism industry.


The governments of several countries have already denied applicants permits to capture dolphins from the wild for public display.  Most recently, the Environment Secretary of Mexico declared a moratorium on the capture of dolphins from the wild.  The controversy over the captive facilities in Mexico prior to the passage of this legislation was featured in the most popular and respected U.S. and international media sources, including NBC Nightly News, 20/20, Time Magazine, New York Times, and the Washington Post. 

The capture of dolphins for facilities in the Caribbean has already sparked notable international controversy in the media and will likely increase dramatically with additional captures.    It is likely that this will result in only a negative impact for Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism. 



            B.   Removal of dolphins could reduce the potential  for local people in the future to initiate  ecotourism projects  that would involve taking people out to observe dolphins in the wild as has successfully been done in many other countries including Dominica, St. Lucia and the Bahamas.


It is felt that this project does not  have a multiplier effect on the economy, as it serves to benefit only a few (most of whom are  not Antiguans), while the majority will bear the burden of ecological and environmental damage, negative publicity and poor economic activity for the majority.

- St John....We loved it so much, we wrote a book about it.
  • By: Joan and Marco Santomenna
  • Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 09:41:02 -0500

"A wonderful and enchanting adventure for all ages. This is a fun tale that will encourage children to use their imaginations on every page. The added features and activities in the back of the book will further challenge children to explore the adventure in this book." Dan Trivett, Youth Services Librarian – Ocean County Library


Caribbean Capers (ISBN 0964340720 – LCN 2002111434) is lively adventure story for kids (9-14)… from the mountains and seas of St John, USVI.

Tricked into partnering with a ring of boat thieves, Sam’s future looks dim. But as his classmate, Buzz, and visiting mainlander, Brian, unravel the mystery of their stolen dinghy, they help Sam escape the evil trap. Together the three friends then unite to rescue a small boy from kidnappers and prevent the theft of a US nuclear submarine.

Caribbean Capers:

  • Is wholesome
  • Encourages good relationships
  • Is page-turning excitement
  • Is specifically designed for the middle-reader
  • Has teacher's questions and recommended websites added.
  • Is interwoven with the history and environment of the Caribbean.

Book Description:

  • Published May 2003: ISBN 0964340720 : LCN 2002111434
  • 144 pgs with 2 page teaching addendum
  • Perfect bound with long-lasting varnished cover
  • Retail Price $9.95

Availability and Distribution:

You can confidently recommend this book to young readers.

- St.Kitts-Nevis: Angelus Resort and Spa at Frigate Bay partners with Aveda
  • By: Scott Ward
  • Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2003 13:27:31 -0600

November 20, 2003 (Frigate Bay, St. Kitts-Nevis, West Indies)—The Angelus Resort and Spa at Frigate Bay, St. Kitts-Nevis, the West Indies, and Aveda Corporation of Minneapolis, MN, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Estee lauder Companies today announced a partnership to develop a spa upholding the Aveda concept.
Aveda, known worldwide for its ecological leadership and social responsibility, is the premier source of environmentally-conscious beauty products and cosmetics. To further the spirit of connecting beauty, environment and well-being, The Angelus Resort and Spa will offers its guests Aveda’s line of hair care, skin care, make-up, PureFume™, Life Style and Holiday products.
“Now, visitors will have the added benefits of Aveda products to complement the luxurious surroundings of our beach resort,” says Pauline Horton, General Manager at The Angelus Resort and Spa. “Needless to say, we are very excited that we have been selected by Aveda to promote their beauty and wellness lifestyle philosophy.
The Angelus Resort and Spa is a Caribbean Lifestyle Resort resting on 15 acres at Frigate Bay, St. Kitts. It currently offers luxury guest suites featuring custom furnishings, and will eventually launch a 10,000-square-foot reception building, a 5,000-square-foot spa and gym, a 4,800-square-foot swimming pool with swim-up bar, as well as three worldclass restaurants and bars.


Scott Ward
The Angelus Resort and Spa
Frigate Bay
St.Kitts and Nevis - West Indies

Resort Phone: (869) 466-6224
Resort Fax: (869) 465-5170
Chicago Phone: (815) 609-5138
Chicago Fax: (815) 609-5139

A Caribbean Lifestyle Resort

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