THE reopening of popular Nelson Mandela Bay attraction Bayworld at the weekend has been marred by spats and concerns over whether dolphins should be kept in captivity – despite officials saying several times the facility's two dolphins, now based at Hong Kong's Ocean Park, will not return to Bayworld in the near future.
In the latest attack on Bayworld, Algoa FM presenter Carol-Ann Kelleher laid into Bayworld curator Robyn Greyling during an interview on Friday's Daron Mann breakfast show.
Yesterday, Kelleher apologised for "probing" Greyling, about the need and ethics of keeping dolphins in captivity.
"I disappointed myself ... I let myself down. I behaved in a completely unprofessional manner by allowing my passion for something I believe in to completely override my sense of right and wrong," Kelleher said. "I am truly sorry."
Algoa FM operations director Alfie Jay said: "Carol-Ann, in her personal capacity, has very strong views about dolphins in captivity.
"As a thorough professional, she felt she had let her emotions take over and lost objectivity."
Greyling refused to comment on the radio interview and the apology. She did, however, say there were no plans to bring the dolphins back to Bayworld in the immediate or near future.
But the presenter is not the only one to raise concerns about Bayworld.
A petition by marine life organisation Ocean Watch SA has been launched. Titled "STOP Bayworld Port Elizabeth South Africa from ever having dolphins in captivity again", it was created in April and has been gaining signatures from across the world, with a total of 2618 so far.
The petition, which is for the attention of the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, was created due to concerns about possible plans to bring back the dolphins.
The organisation – which raises awareness about captivity facilities including oceanariums – said they had been keeping a "careful eye" on Bayworld after the deaths of two dolphins there in 1995.
Ocean Watch member Norma Patrick said: "It is unethical, immoral and cruel to keep dolphins in captivity."
But other experts have raised differing views about the issue.
"The question is having the facility and permits in place... It's a very complex issue, not a yes or no answer," Stephanie Plon, marine mammalogist at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, said.
She said there were a number of laws which had to be adhered to when keeping dolphins in captivity. NMMU marine biologist Dr Nadine Strydom said captivity conditions needed to comply with international standards.
However, Dr Vic Cockcroft, from the Ocean Research Conservation Africa foundation, said: "I don't like animals in captivity ... It is better for them to exist in a natural habitat."