A closed meeting suggests there may be a reduction in support for Hisarönü’s dolphinarium following the recent feedback received by the council committee.

It appears that the Ölüdeniz Municipality is divided, following mounting opposition to the construction of a new dolphinarium in Hisarönü.

Previously enjoying the full backing of councillors for a new dolphin centre in Hisarönü, Ölüdeniz Municipality Mayor Keramettin Yılmaz said in a closed meeting last week his committee was split down the middle following negative feedback for the project headed by Dolphintherapy Kaş.

“At this point in time the committee is divided 50 to 50, following the recent feedback we’ve been receiving about the dolphinarium. I’ve had friends call me from all over the place including Fethiye and even the United States expressing their concerns.”

[inset side=right]The councillor said……..”that he personally would encourage the business to look for an alternative place to set up his business.”[/inset]Despite previously saying the project would go ahead, the mayor revealed that the final decision would in fact come from the department of Agriculture and Village Affairs. Representatives from the department will inspect the completed site and issue an operating licence to Dolphinarium Kaş only if the centre meets their standards.

“We cannot give a guarantee on whether the dolphinarium will open this summer because it is up to the department to do this. We did however give the tender to Dolphintherapy Kaş on the basis of the positive feedback we got at the time from local businesses. Our aim was not to upset people, but to create an additional recreational facility in Hısarönü much like the Luna Park and Go-Carting activities we already have.”

Present at the meeting were various tour operators and travel agents who maintained that the opening of such a facility, backed by the Municipality would be a bad business decision that could have a detrimental effect on the image of Hısarönü and tourism in the area more generally.

“Obviously most people are upset because of the welfare of the dolphins, but even if you look at it from purely a business point of view there are problems…visitors will see how small the pool is and will simply not book, while the tour operators most likely will not be able to sell it as it does not fit their guidelines,” a tour operator said.

The Health and Safety manager for Thomas Cook, a major tour provider said, “There is no positive feel from this project – no one seems to have a positive outlook. The negative reactions towards this could impact on tourism in the area.”

The manager continued, “While it wouldn’t pass any auditing process anyway, if it was used for “dolphin therapy” it would certainly not be accepted by Thomas Cook as the company does not support this practice.”

Originally voting in favour of the centre, councillor Emin Öner conceded that more consultation could have been conducted with the community before the tender was given to Dolphintherapy Kaş.

The councillor said that all the information from the meeting would be communicated to the operator later this week and that he personally would encourage the business to look for an alternative place to set up his business.

You can follow the online discussions and comment about this contentious project on Facebook here in English and here in Turkish.

Jane Tuna Akatay and Özlem Öztürk

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