The Flap Over Flipper

So you want to swim with the dolphins? Be prepared for two things: An argument from activists and a chance that the dolphins will make contact -- serious contact.

A dolphin's tail broke New Jersey tourist Carmen Cerasoli's snorkel mask at Dolphins Plus this past year, cutting an eyebrow and swelling his cheek .

Massachusetts attorney Mark Alpert related in an affidavit he sent to the Fisheries Service that a dolphin broke his ribs during a swim this past year at Theater of the Sea in Islamorada.

Swim-with program directors argue that such incidents rarely occur, and certainly not with such frequency as to warrant closure of the programs. "Out of 100,000 to 200,000 people who have participated in all the swim programs, I know of only three or four injuries," remarks Lloyd Borguss, who runs the eleven-year-old Dolphins Plus with his two sons and his son-in-law. "I don't know of any other activity in life that offers less of a risk." In addition, Borguss points out, the accidents Rector describes occurred at least a year ago; some took place several years ago. "If it had been something serious, Washington would have stepped on us a long time ago," he says.

Dolphin Beach Aruba developer William Marquez says he undertook his project with a clear conscience. "We've done enough soul-searching to feel comfortable about what we're doing," he asserts, adding that dolphin trainers-turned-activists like Rector and O'Barry suffer from "dirty consciences." "They feel that since they treated dolphins in medieval ways in the past that everyone else who has dolphins in captivity will do the same.

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