Real information on San Carlos Sonora Mexico
Sonora Delfinario The Deadly Dolphinarium of San Carlos

Sonora Delfinario The Deadly Dolphinarium of San Carlos

Sonora Delfinaro: The Deadly Dolphinarium of San Carlos


Dolphinarium Timeline


October of 2006: PRI Governor Eduardo Bours inaugurates dolphinarium. Four dolphins arrive from controversial 2003 Solomon Island capture.

Mayo of 2007: Maria del Sol Guerro Martinez(Marisol) resigns for refusing to falsify water quality assays at dolphinarium.

September 2007: Two dolphins Gabutu & Gabriel die other two are transported back to Cancun

April 2008: Alex Gómez Rubio receives contract, two bottlenose Chirris & Ketsi dolphins arrive from Cozumel.

December 2009: Guillermo Padres wins Election, CEDES kidnaps Chirris & Ketsi, legal battle begins. Carlos Gonzalez Nemmer is Director of facility.

February 2010: Dolphin Discovery from Cancun receive contract. Four indo pacific bottlenose dolphin Lewis, Marina, Jogo, & Vale arrive. Six dolphins now occupy facility.

March 2010: Maria del Sol Guerro Martinez(Marisol) takes position as technical director of dolphinarium

December 26th 2010: Lewis one of Dolphin Discovery’s dolphins dies

April 2011: Chirris one of Alez Gómez Rubio’s two kidnapped dolphins dies.

November 2011: CEDES stops payments to Dolphin Discovery

March 3rd 2012: Dolphin Discovery returns to Cancun with their three remaining dolphins, Leaving Ketsi the kidnapped dolphin all by herself. CEDES is now in violation of several federal laws.

April: CEDES formulates plan to illegally capture wild dolphins from the bay here in San Carlos. Cooling systems have not worked since the end of last summer. Marisol is pressured by Director Nemmer to sign off on illegal plan to capture wild dolphins.

May 5th: Ketsi remains alone at dolphinarium. CEDES attempts to enact plan to capture wild dolphins from San Carlos with the help of Chuyin Velarde.

May 6th: PROFEPA inspects dolphinarium and finds many violations of federal law including equipment used to illegally capture dolphins

May 10th: Marisol is pressured to resign by Carlos Gonzalez Nemmer accused of being a whistle blower fired.

May 15th: Water in the pool at dolphinarium rises to 90 degrees F. Ketsi is in danger of dying.

May 27th: PROFEPA officials from Mexico City confiscate Ketsi and return her to Cancun.


“No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.” Jacques Cousteau


What is it about dolphins that makes people go gaga? Every one has their motives. Suffice to say that their long history of interaction with us land based (supposedly Homo sapiens) mammals has certainly endeared them to us. From classical time to present dolphins have an incredible reputation for being friendly and kind. Just go to youtube and use some key words such as dog, dolphin, save, friend, and cyberspace will provide the rest.

I content that the dolphinarium in San Carlos and the Dolphin industry in Mexico has not returned the offer of friendship to cetaceans. From its inauguration in October of 2006 to May of 2012 ten bottlenose  dolphins have called San Carlos home. Four of them have died. Math was never my strong point but a 40% mortality rate, seems high for a facility that has been open for just 5 short years. There are currently no dolphins residing in captivity in San Carlos, lucky for them. Do dolphins live longer in captivity compared to the wild? To answer that questions many variables need consideration but the simple answer appears to be yes and no,  and greatly depends on the care captive dolphins receive and whether or not they live in the dolphinarium of San Carlos.

Most San Carlos locals are aware that a group (pod) or perhaps even a family if you will, of friendly wild bottle nose dolphins are permanent residents of the area. No one can tell us how long this group of dolphins have been around but they certainly predate the town of San Carlos and it is not inconceivable that our local family of dolphins were here before Francisco de Ulloa called the Gulf of California The Vermillion Sea. Can you imagine that? It is likely that family’s of dolphins, moms pops aunts uncles cousins and grandparents, all related to each other have been living in San Carlos for hundreds of years and countless generations. Well I guess actually you could count the generations but again lets forgo the math shall we.

According to local Mammalogists, there are anywhere between 14 and 28 dolphins residing in Bahia San Francisco and environs at any given moment. I have seen dolphins on many occasions swim around  Bahia San Carlos, were all the sail boats are moored, they are wild and free creatures.

There are not a lot of places in the world were you can virtually guarantee that a person will see a wild dolphin on such a regular basis. San Carlos is such a place. If you haven’t seen the wild population of dolphins here then I suggest that you charter a boat rent beg or borrow a kayak or just get down to El Soldado Estuary on any given morning and roam the beach. Ask some of the locals who live out there what time the dolphins have been swimming by. Almost invariably you will find them. Often times on your first try. Back in the day when we were running kayaks tours at the estuary for Club Med one of my guides had the pleasure of watching a dolphin give birth while he was guiding a trip. I missed that one, what I would have given to have experienced it. I would argue that these wild dolphins have become a rather important economic asset to the local tourism industry. Although I absolutely abhor the idea of trying to quantitate what our resident population of dolphins would be worth in cold hard pesos what is impossible to calculate would be the great pleasure and countless memories residents and visitors have experienced by their presence.

So it may or may not be a surprise to everyone to hear this but the state run agency Comision De Ecologia Y Desarrollo Sustentable Del Estado De Sonora (CEDES) (Ecology and Sustainable Development Commission of the State of Sonora) was preparing to illegally capture wild local dolphins from the bay here and stick them in the dolphinarium. This all went down last April of 2012. To even consider such a vile act in itself takes a whole lot of cajones and CEDES did way more than just consider it. The laws that CEDES would have been violating while illegally capturing dolphins are numerous and punitive. This gives one a clear idea of the mindset of CEDES. Ironically, considering their mission, there is no doubt they believed themselves and continue to believe that they are completely above federal environmental law in Mexico. Remember these are the same people who wish to give us a zip line over at the Estero El Soldado, started digging holes for the construction of said zip line and were only stopped at the last minute by out raged locals who filed a complaint with the federal governmental agency PROFEPA (Mexico’s version of the EPA) to halt the project.

The scary thing about the illegal dolphin capture plan is that if it were not for one person, a lone woman biologist who stood up to all the machismo and testosterone that was floating around the dolphinarium at the time, CEDES would have gotten away with it. Why would the agency, that is supposed to protect the environment in Sonora, want to do something so incredibly despicable. Well I think it has something to do with the fact that dolphins in captivity have little to do about “conservation and sustainable development” but a lot to do about money. Entertainment for the masses in the form of dolphins in captivity is an extremely lucrative business in Mexico.

To fully understand the events leading up to the April 2012 plot to illegally capture wild dolphins in San Carlos and enslave them in the dolphinarium we must first go over a brief history of the facility. Why would anyone in their right mind actually want to spend 105 million pesos (thats 2006 pesos) to build a facility like this in San Carlos when we don’t even have major commercial airline service to the area.

It all starts out in 2003 when Eduardo Bours during his campaign for governor made a promise. He even had a telethon to raise money for this political promise. It was called Delfiton Fundacion Bours, there is a video on you tube. Bours was in an extremely tight race for governor against a man  named Roman Coral. In order to win votes he promised to start a dolphin therapy program to treat children with  neurological disabilities and Down Syndrome. The treatments would be free to the public paid for by the state. He won the election by the razor thin margin of 0.9%. That decision to build a dolphinarium has been greatly criticized by many Sonorans who claim the money could have been better spend on perhaps a new hospital or in some other way that would benefit a greater part of the general population. The facility was controversial but when you are governor you can pull a lot of strings and you have a lot of control over the media so any dissent is usually swept under the rug and thus the money was allocated and the facility was inaugurated with great fan fare in October of 2006. The official government motto at the time was PROMESA CUMPLIDA (promise kept).

The state run agency CEDES would be in charge of running it. The facility would be stocked with dolphins taken from the wild here in the Sea of Cortes. Capturing live dolphins had been banned in Mexico since around the year 2000 but you could get a permit from the federal government if you could justify a valid reason for the capture. CEDES’ justification to apply for the permit was dolphin therapy and education. An environmental impact study was funded to determine where the dolphins should come from and how many could be taken from a given population so as not to effect its social structure. It was decided that the dolphins could be taken from Guasimas. An area of the Yaqui coast south of Guaymas. Vicente Fox had just won the Presidential election for PAN. This was the first time in 70 years PRI had lost a presidential election. Eduardo Bours was from PRI. The permit for a live capture of dolphins was denied by the federal government. It was most likely a political decision but there was another factor. It was ascertained that the original environmental impact study that was submitted to the federal government had been altered. The original study had been written based on a capture of 6 dolphins. One lone official working for CEDES upon receiving the impact study took it upon himself to change the number of dolphins to be captured from 6 to 8. When the federal government got wind of this change they denied the permit. The facility was almost complete by the time the federal permit to capture dolphins was denied. Bours and his crew presumed from the beginning that they would easily obtain the permit. Now with the facility almost complete they had no choice but to rent dolphins from an existing company. The profit the dolphinarium could have turned had it been managed properly now would be a huge deficit for the state.

CEDES contracted with a company called Atlantida to supply them dolphins. Atlantida in 2003 purchased 28 indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins from the far away Solomon Islands. The dolphins were delivered to the Atlantiada-owned Parque Nizuc located in Cancun. Tsunami, Azul, Gabutu and Gabriel, the first dolphins to call the San Carlos dolphinarium home were four of the original 28 dolphins that were brought over from the Solomon Islands.

In itself the Solomon-Islands capture would become very controversial and sparked international outrage by conservation organizations all over the world. There is plenty of information out there if you punch in the right key words. The man in charge of delivering the dolphins to Mexico for Atlantida was Alex Gómez Rubio. According to Gómez Rubio there is also an equal amount of disinformation regarding the 2003 capture that he was in charge of.

According to the internet at least 12 of the original 28 dolphins died within the first 5 years of their transfer. That is a stunningly high 42% mortality rate when you consider that indo-pacific dolphins can live up to 40 or 50 years in the wild. Alex claims the mortality numbers you find on line are incorrect and that the mortality was no were near that high.

Why would the dolphin industry actually misrepresent dolphin mortality? Especially if they were misrepresenting a number that was higher than the true mortality and theoretically made them look bad.


“You have three big company’s in Cancun, Dolphinaris formerly Atlantida, Dolphin Discovery, and Grupo Via Delphi, they are the three big company’s and they throw shit back and forth at each other and there was one, Dolphin Discovery the biggest of them all was the one trying to ban importation of dolphins into Mexico.” Said Gómez Rubio. 


Alex claims that what dolphin discovery wanted was a monopoly on the dolphin market in Mexico. What they did not want was competition from smaller mom and pop dolphin operators. 


“They worked with the green party, they had some one in the senate, they threw a lot of money around. They actually kicked themselves in the butt cause they now have so many dolphins they don’t know what to do with them all. Mexico is basically the only country in the world you can’t import or export dolphins.” Said Gómez Rubio.


With remarkable speed, especially when considering the political process here in the so-called “land of manana”, by 2006, just three short years after the 2003 Solomon Island transfer, Mexico banned all dolphin importation into the country. Wild captures of dolphins had been banned around 2000. What this meant was that if you were a big operation like Dolphin Discovery, the biggest of them all, you had an advantage. You could breed your dolphins in captivity and smaller operations would have a much harder time competing.

The San Carlos Dolphinarium opened its doors in October of 2006 and by September of 2007 Gabutu and Gabriel were dead. Could it have been a stress related opportunistic bacterial infection caused by  the trauma of Hurricane Henrietta? Or could it be possible that the dolphins simply received very poor treatment from their care givers. In April of 2007 the facility had a problem with their filtration system and experienced a huge algal bloom. Apparently this algal bloom greatly affected the PH of the water. Maria del Sol Guerro Martinez (Marisol) was in charge of testing water quality and brought this to the attention of Pablo Nelson Garcias Varios one of the head trainers, and right hand man of then director Victor Sanchez. Marisol was instructed by Nelson that in future analysis if the water did not fall within the required parameters she was to change the data. Marisol refused to take part in what was clearly a violation of federal law let alone a complete lack of respect for the health and well being of the animals in captivity and within a month resigned from her job. Gabriel and Gabutu the first two dolphins to die in San Carlos can now be viewed in a more clear perspective. Bacteria, Stress from a Hurricane, poor health care or complete incompetence? Take your pick.

The reality is that we will never know the real truth behind any of these deaths since the small amount of transparency that exists in Mexico’s captive dolphin industry is easily manipulated, distorted and or fabricated. What ever the true cause of death Atlantida, which latter changed their name to Dolphinaris, high tailed it out of San Carlos back to Cancun with their two surviving dolphins, Tsunami and Azul.

This left the door open for another smaller mom & pop operator to get into the picture. Enter Alex Gómez Rubio. Alex just happened to have two therapy-trained dolphins in his operation in Cozumel. Before taking the contract he came to San Carlos and inspected the facility. He agreed to bring his dolphins only if the pool was remodeled. All the fiberglass sheeting that was used in the construction of the pool would have to be ripped out and replaced with concrete followed by several coats of specially designed epoxy paint that is used exclusively for dolphin enclosures. CEDES agreed to Alex’s conditions and on April 30 of 2008 Chirris and Ketsi, two female bottlenose dolphins, arrived. Chirris was captured live from the Sea of Cortes in 2000 (just before the law change). Ketsi was born in captivity in Puerto Vallarta June 7th 2004.

Alex ran a tight ship. With a pool designed for six and only two dolphins to occupy it things went well for the next 18 months. Neurologically challenged kids received their therapy’s paid for by the state and tourists got a new attraction. No dolphins died on Alex’s watch. What no one could have predicted is that there was a serious political upheaval on Sonora’s horizon.

On the 5th of June the unimaginable happened and it happened on Governor Eduardo Bours’s watch. The ABC day care center in Hermosillo caught fire and 49 children between the ages of 5 months and 5 years old died. It appears no one ever went to jail for the tragedy and it was ascertained that those in charge of the day care center may have been well connected to the governor. That information most likely cost the PRI party its first gubernatorial election loss in 70 years. Alex Gómez Rubios contract with the dolphinarium expired in December of 2009. Sonora’s new PAN governor Guillermo Padres decided he could find a cheaper source of dolphins and did not renew Gómez Rubios contract. In December of 2009 when it became clear to Alex and his team that his contract would not be renewed he started looking for another venue. He negotiated a contract with a facility in Nuevo Leon. When it came time to move his dolphins to the new facility CEDES, now under the leadership of PAN and Guillermo Padres, refused to allow the dolphins to be transfered. Alex had all of his paper work in order but the governor would not budge. The governor claimed the paper work that Alex had was incorrect incomplete ex cetera and refused to give Alex back his dolphins.

When dolphins are captured or born in captivity there is a tremendous amount of paper work that follows that individual dolphin from cradle to watery grave. A small micro chip is also embedded into the dorsal fin of each animal. Alex has been in the business for 30 years and his paper work was in order. CEDES just wanted to keep his dolphins, it was that simple.

While Alex was trying to figure out how to get his dolphins back CEDES negotiated a deal with Dolphin Discovery in Cancun. On the 7th of February of 2010 four more indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins, (Lewis, Marina, Jogo and Vale) joined their eastern-pacific Sea-of-Cortés kidnapped cousins (Chirris and Ketsi) at the San Carlos facility. Now with 6 dolphins it was game-on for CEDES.  On the 26th of December 2010 Lewis died. Around the 10th of April 2011 Chirris, one of Alex’s kidnapped dolphins died as well. Why did they die? A bacteria, undue stress, poor management, improperly functioning life support systems, horrible veterinary care, a combination of all of the above? This isn’t a multiple choice test but I would go with all of the above. Suffice to say by March of 2012 Dolphin Discovery had had enough of CEDES and the San Carlos facility. Apparently CEDES, in November 2011, had stopped paying Dolphin Discovery for the rental of the dolphins. As badly as Dolphin Discovery must have wanted to stay in the Sonora dolphin market place, they decided in the end they should cut their losses and leave. With surviving Marina, Jogo and Vale returned to Cancun, Ketsi was left all by herself. Not only would that cause a huge public relations nightmare for CEDES, it would also violate a number of federal laws in regards to dolphins in captivity.

Leaving Ketsi by herself presented CEDES with a rather large conundrum. It is illegal for dolphins to be in captivity alone. If CEDES could not find another contractor to bring them dolphins they would be in violation of federal law. It seems no one in the dolphin business in Mexico was interested in bringing their dolphins to the facility, imagine that. Why would a company bring dolphins here when the state could not (or would not) afford to pay for them. Not to mention kidnap your dolphins if they wanted. Governors have a lot of power and bad news travels fast in Mexico’s dolphin’s in captivity industry.

When Dolphin Discovery, in March of 2012, vacated the San Carlos Facility the Technical Director of the dolphinarium at the time was Marisol Guerrero. She had rejoined the facility in March of 2010 starting her new position just one month after Lewis, Marina, Jogo, and Vale arrived from Cancun with Dolphin Discovery. Marisol was also fully aware that CEDES had refused to return Ketsi and Chirris to Alex Gómez Rubio.

When Dolphin Discovery decided to leave it was Marisol’s job to check the paper work. After reviewing all the permits Marisol ascertained that Dolphin Discovery was in compliance with the law and returned all the paper work back to them. Later that day the director of the dolphinarium Carlos Gonzalez Nemmer called her into his office furious that she had given the paper work a green light. How could she have given Dolphin Discovery’s paper work back to them? It was immediately clear to Marisol that the director fully intended to do to Dolphin Discovery exactly what they had done to Alex Gómez Rubio; to keep dolphins that didn’t belong to CEDES. Marisol informed Carlos Nemmer that she had no choice but to return the files to Dolphin Discovery, they were in compliance with the law. Dolphin Discovery actually had a contingent plan if CEDES refused to return their dolphins. They sent a letter to PROFEPA informing them they had a medical emergency in Sonora and for the safety of the animals they needed to move them immediately. Now CEDES was really screwed. PROFEPA was aware that there would only be one dolphin left in the pool.

By the 3rd of March Ketsi was not only completely alone in the dolphinarium but also when Dolphin Discovery checked-out they took all their dolphin food and their staff with them. That included the veterinarian, another violation of federal law. Two animal trainers from Dolphin Discovery jumped ship and stayed in San Carlos. Marisol and the two trainers were left to try to care for Ketsi as best they could. Semana Santa (Easter Week), the biggest holiday of the year was on the horizon and CEDES only had one dolphin. A huge public relations nightmare. During the busiest week of the year Ketsi would now be required to do the work of 6 dolphins. That would mean 7 work sessions a day of 25 minutes apiece.  These sessions included performing in the dolphin show, give swim-therapy to disabled kids and swimming with the tourists who paid extra for the interactive package. And then, after all that, Ketsi would have to pose for pictures as well. All by herself.

One can only imagine the amount of stress this animal had to endure. “For CEDES it was business, they figured as long as the animal could still swim she was ok”, Said Marisol. With no veterinarian around, Marisol sought the help of other veterinarians on line who were specialist in marine mammal health care. Together with the trainers Marisol monitored Ketsi as best they could. During that time she took three blood samples and consulted with vets on line. Analysis of blood samples showed Ketsi’s heath was deteriorating. She was on medication to control a fungal infection and the blood samples were indicating that she might have some kind of liver problem. To top it all off the water in the pool started to warm. As March turned to April the water cooling systems, which stopped working at the end of last summer, had still not been repaired and the Ozone filtration system did not work either. Basically the place was a disaster area.  At that point Marisol called a meeting with those in charge at CEDES.

A large part of the conversation dealt with the fact that Ketsi could not remain by herself much longer. Her blood samples were looking bad and part of it had to do with stress from her solitary confinement. She also brought to their attention the lack of a vet on the premisses, yet another violation of federal law.


“They laughed, they made sarcastic jokes, they told me to go to Guaymas and get a vet”.  She said.


A week or so later at another meeting, dolphinarium director Carlos Gonzalez-Nemmer told Marisol to stop “stressing out” over this dolphin. If the dolphin died, it would be the responsibility of the governor since it was he who had decided to keep (kidnap) the animal. After that statement it was perhaps a week later that Marisol was called back into the office of Gonzalez-Nemmer. He told her he had just received a phone call from the head of PROFEPA, Alan Munro, in Hermosillo and that two wild dolphins had been entrapped and injured in a net set by a commercial tuna fish boat down off Huatabampo (about 100 miles south of Guaymas) PROFEPA wanted  to rescue the dolphins by bringing them to the dolphinarium.  Rather astounded, Marisol, a trained and degreed marine biologist, just shook her head and said that could not be possible. Tuna boats don’t fish there. Then Nemmer said, “Oh you know what, it must have been Guasimas” (about 40 miles south of Guaymas). Again, Marisol commented that he had to be mistaken because commercial tuna boats would never be fishing in those areas. “So, how about Topolobampo?”, said the director  He was obviously testing the waters to see if he could get Marisol to go along with a newly formed plan to illegally capture wild dolphins and take them to the San Carlos facility. Finally, Marisol said “Well, let’s just call up Alan Munro from PROFEPA and ask him were these dolphins are located since you can’t remember, and I will also call Dr. Juan Pablo Gallo, a local marine mammalogist at CIAD, and we will go investigate it.” At that point, González-Nemmer said “No, no, no, we don’t want to talk about this to anyone, but if we did do a rescue, how would we bring them into the facility”. Undaunted, Marisol stood her ground and said that in no way, shape, or form could you bring an injured dolphin into the dolphinarium, because that would constitute an illegal capture and she would not sign off on it.

The only way that they could even consider it would be to have officials from PROFEPA present with qualified vets who could examine the animals and determine if they were truly in need of a rescue. Nemmer didn’t want to take no for an answer.  “Well how about I just show up with some dolphins here what about that?” Again Marisol explained that dolphins captured in the wild remain quarantined around 10 days before they are transfered to a facility. If you took a few dolphins from the wild and simply dumped them in the dolphinarium immediately you could put them into shock and they could quite conceivably die and or infect Ketsi with a virus or bacteria. “What about we set up a corral for the dolphins over at El Estero del Soldado?” continued Nemmer. Marisol responded, you couldn’t just set up a dolphin corral in the estuary, it was a national park. The conversation never seemed to end. Nemmer asked Marisol if she knew a man named Chuyin Velarde. She did indeed, apparently Chuyin Velarde didn’t have a problem trafficking marine species. Nemmer told Marisol that Velarde was willing to help CEDES with their problem.

About 5 days after this conversation Marisol walked out of her office and noticed a maintenance worker cleaning equipment not normally found at the dolphinarium. There were stretchers, nets and carrier boxes, All the gear  one would need to go bottlenose dolphin fishing. Marisol asked the worker what he was doing. He was told to clean the gear tomorrow they were going out to use it. Chuyin Velarde was in town.  At this moment Marisol furious that CEDES was actually going to go through with this insane plan immediately sent an email to Carlos Gonzalez Nemmer demanding to know what was going on. She got no reply.

The next morning when Marisol arrived to work she finally met Chuyin Velarde along with a few other fisherman standing on the ramp at the dolphinarium. They were preparing to go fishing for bottlenose dolphins. Marisol confronted him immediately, “ I walked right up to him and said you must be Chuyin Velarde, It is a pleasure to meet you, can you tell me what it is you are about to do?” Why do you want to know that? retorted Velarde. “I am the technician in charge here.” said Marisol. This is interesting said Velarde. Marisol asked him directly if he already had the dolphins in a net stashed some where. Her fear was that the dolphins had already been captured and placed in some clandestine location. He said he didn’t know what she was talking about. He was just waiting for Carlos Gonzalez Nemmer the director of the dolphinarium to show up.

“I asked him again do you have the dolphins already captured somewhere? He said to me what dolphins? I don’t know what you are talking about. I said what are the nets boxes and stretchers for? Are you going out to catch butterfly’s? I said to him I would just like to remind you that what you are about to do is illegal. He said to me you biologists and ecologist’s think you know everything but you don’t know anything, laws were made to be broken.”

As the conversation went back and forth finally the director of the facility Carlos Gonazalez Nemmer arrived. His face turned pale when he saw Marisol questioning his team of dolphin thieves. “He asked me what I was doing here, I told him that I was just asking Chuyin what was going on and waiting for him to arrive. He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me aside and said I have fucking had enough of you, get in line or get the fuck out!” said Marisol. He then ordered Marisol to his office where he explained that Chuyin Velarde had been brought here to protect our wild dolphins in the bay from local fisherman who might trap them in nets and then shoot them. Marisol explained to Nemmer that in her 20 years of experience as a biologist she had never seen a fisherman shoot a dolphin. As Carlos Gonzalez Nemmer continued to try to cover his ass by spewing a ton of bullshit to Marisol the phone rang. The phone call was most likely from someone in CEDES in Hermosillo. Nemmer told Marisol that PROFEPA in Mexico City had received an anonymous report from a local NGO in Guaymas that the dolphinarium was preparing to illegally capture wild dolphins. The jig was up.

That was pretty much the end of that day. The very next day PROFEPA inspectors from Mexico City, not the state run PROFEPA in Hermosillo, showed up to inspect the facility. In an unbelievably huge tactical blunder Chuyin Velarde and the idiots in charge of CEDES  had not removed all the gear that was to be used to illegally capture dolphins. The nets stretchers and boxes were still there. CEDES had been caught red handed. Inspectors also noted that there was no veterinarian on the premisses, Ketsi was alone in the tank, the cooling system for the water was nonfunctioning and was indeed to hot. The ozone filter was not 100% either. It was determined by PROFEPA that Ketsi would have to be moved immediately form the facility.  Five days later the temperature of the water had risen to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and Ketsi had still not been transported. Someone had the bright idea to try to cool the water with ice. Two hundred bags of ice were purchased and brought to the facility. When Marisol came to work and saw the ice her immediate comment was “who is the idiot responsible for this idea”. Chuyin Velarde now contracted by CEDES not to be out done replied to Marisol that he thought it was her idea. Apparently the director of the facility ordered the ice. “If they would have brought perhaps 3000 bags of ice they might have actually affected the temperature”. said Marisol. She took out her smart phone and took a few pictures. She was immediately called to the office of Nemmer and told to delete the pictures. Marisol told Nemmer the ice idea was idiotic, his response, well how do we fix this then. Marisol responded, “This can not be fixed, if you don’t get Ketsi out of here she is going to die, what don’t you get about this?”

That was the straw that broke the camels back for Carlos Gonzalez Nemmer. It was the 10th of May and not only was Marisol fired that day she was also told that she was going to be sued for leaking information to PROFEPA about their little dolphin capture program. When CEDES fired Marisol, by law they had to immediately hire another technical director to replace her and notify PROFEPA as well that she had been replaced. CEDES did neither. Marisol the moment she was fired advised PROFEPA that she was no long working for CEDES to cover herself. Around the 15th of May PROFEPA made another surprise inspection of the facility. The inspectors asked to see the technical director Marisol. They were told she was on vacation when in fact she had already been fired, another violation of federal law. PROFEPA having already been informed of Marisol’s dismissal thus caught CEDES and their Director in yet another lie.

On the 27th of May PROFEPA finally showed up to transfer Ketsi to another facility in Cancun. When Marisol returned for her severance pay several weeks after being fired she was handed a check for 1500 pesos. Well below what CEDES legally owed her. The story had now changed and CEDES claimed that she quit voluntarily and so the 1500 pesos check reflected that. Marisol is currently suing CEDES.

There are no dolphins residing in our wonderful dolphinarium by the sea here in sunny San Carlos as we go to print with this story. CEDES has claimed that soon they will have the place up and running again. After reading this can you really trust anything that comes from them? I also have to think that it is highly possible that the now federally run PRI government in Mexico City might deny the permit to allow the PAN run dolphinarium to open up again. I would argue that this facility might be better served as something else entirely. To sum it all up 4 out of the 10 dolphins that have lived here between the years of 2007 and 2012 have died. I would contend that all of those deaths could have been avoided with proper oversight. I do not know what goes on at other facilities in Mexico but based on what I have learned in Sonora I think Mexico and most definitely San Carlos could do quite well without dolphinariums. Perhaps the San Carlos facility should be forever closed to dolphins and reconverted into an aquarium. Definitely take it out of the hands of the state and privatize it!

I would like to specially thank Marisol for standing up to governmental corruption. I am confident that if CEDES would have had one of their cronies as Technical Director of the facility, they would have certainly captured local bottlenose dolphins and put them in the dolphinarium. With CEDES running the show in my humble opinion that would have been a death sentence for Ketsi as well as any other dolphins that might have joined her.


What do you all think of the dolphinarium now?


I am very much interested in what San Carlos thinks on this subject. Has this article changed your opinion on dolphins in captivity? Would you still consider going to the facility knowing what you now know? please go to  look for this article on the link FRONT PAGE STORIES and please join the dialog.

24 Responses to Sonora Delfinario The Deadly Dolphinarium of San Carlos

  1. pienso que esta pagina es mas vista por americanos que mexicanos, sin embargo, quiero decirme, tu servidor, ferviente admirador de tus pagina y tus reportajes, no se si alcances a ver el problema, la apat?a de la sociedad (y con todo respeto, involucro a los americanos) hace que estos casos se repitan una y otra vez en situaciones como esta, hay dinero para hacer algo, pero no para darle seguimiento, ?porque? entran much?simos factores, corrupci?n, es la principal, como se puede contrarrestar, un primer paso es informar, cada vez mas, se supone que debe de haber transparencia de los fondos p?blicos, entonces lo que hace falta, en mi muy particular punto de vista, es involucrarnos mas como sociedad, un patronato, “fundation” pero que manejaran el delfinario… DIF?CIL, pero se tiene que poder, tienes muchos seguidores, Guaymas tiene una escuela de Biolog?a Marina o algo as? del TEC de Monterrey o no se de donde mas, tienen que involucrar personas, que tengan cierta presencia en la poblaci?n y el Gobierno ya sea Municipal, Estatal o Federal los oiga… DIF?CIL, pero se tiene que empezar, ustedes en EUA est?n muchos adelantados en esto y de alguna forma pueden contribuir, pero tienen que salir de su espacio de confort, al igual que la gente de Sonora, opino que un delfinario es definitivamente lo que debe de ser, pero funcionando bien

  2. It makes me feel ill to read this and how these marvelous animals are being treated. I am against Dolfinariums and the capture of these animals, as well as whales that are put on display such as in Sea World. And I am especially sick at heart to think they could be capturing dolphins right here in San Carlos. And the Mexican government is notorious for not following their own laws, so what can be done? That is the real problem, it is all about politics and greed. We are ruining our planet because money rules. Bless you for bringing attention to this matter!

  3. Today, April 10th, El Imparcial published a small note that Guaymas is gearing up to receive 4 dolphins from Dolphin discovery… Romulo, Triton, Belle and Ariel. How can they still get dolphins at all?!?!

  4. If indeed they get 4 more dolphins that just shows you how desperate Dolphin Discovery is to expand their operations into Sonora. I have been trying to contact Profepa for some time now in regards to the permitting and the fines that CEDES paid. I will call them again today and see if I can not find out exactly what CEDES paid in fines. Thanks for the info Anny.

  5. You are welcome, Vince. I took a picture of the article, if you would like it, let me know and i will send it. Let’s generate as much awareness as possible to prevent dolphins from coming to their death beds!

  6. Thanks Anny, I have found it and this of course is nothing more than a press release from CEDES, Journalists at el imparcial I am sure have been forbidden to do a real story on this, here is the link

    I tried to contact Dolphin Discovery while I was researching the article but they refused to return our emails and phone calls. You will now be able to bear witness to how the paid media machine in Hermosillo will work. There will be absolutely no mention of the past problems at the facility. I will be trying hard to get the profepa info posted on line, just called them again and no answer on the phone.

    I will also try hard to interview Dolphin Discovery on their return. It is very interesting that they came back and there are several theories as to why they are back and we will certainly explore this situation in the coming weeks!

  7. Dolphin Discovery is comming back because for them as for all the ones that are in this business it’s that Money thing and because dolphin discovery is desperated to open as many locations as they can for money and because they have so many dolphins in captivity that they don’t know where to put them!! Sadly but this is reality!!! 🙁

  8. Mostly everything is treu but not everything.

    Marisol stop working early January 2007 and i got hire. she was not there when the dolphin arrive in October 2006 until december 2006. she was hire back againg in 2010 around end march early april probably because i got fire due to the kidnap of Alex Dolphins at the end of February 2010. The technical representative (Not Director is responsible of all the technical issue only) She was not the main representative because their is someone above her the Legal representative in wish is until today Carlos Antonio Gonzalez Nemer.

    Let make sure all the information is correct before posting anything.

  9. I made a few type ohh sorry.

    I like it that we get information but lets say the true please and make sure we confirm the information you now all of us that we have work there Vince. In general it is a good but no everything.


  10. There could be some mistakes on dates, that is always possible but explain to me what you think is not correct Sergio? Aslo I made a mistake as well, Calderon was just elected President Not Fox when Bours and CEDES were denied the permit for legal capture of Dolphins at the beginning of all this.


  11. Again if there is something that is very inaccurate Sergio then you should certainly speak up and let me know. We strive to make the information as accurate as possible so if you have something to add by all means do so.

    thanks, Vince

  12. Es muy buena esta pagina y ahy infinidad de cosas que uno no sabe aunque alla trabajado en ese lugar lo que es muy cierto es. Que la entrada de dinero es lo unico que les interesa, ni los ni?os, ni los delfines. gracias vince! y pues Marizol sabe que siempre a contado con mi apoyo…

  13. Recently I spoke directly with a father of a child that is disabled, these parents have struggled to raise 12,000 pesos to provide dolphin therapy for their child. I wonder how, if there are no dolphins in the facility at this time, can who ever is in charge honestly accept this money? These people that worked hard to raise the money are probably not aware of this situation. They continue to require funds for on-going treatments and if anyone is interested in helping please leave a message for me with Vince – thank you.

  14. OOPS – sorry, in my hast to post after reading your wonderful article, I should have stopped read all the prior posts. Let’s hope the facility operators will run it by the rules and have made the necessary repairs. Maybe they need some sort of independant governance board to oversee the operation? I am not a fan of animals, of any sort in captivity, so will probably never go there. I prefer to see the dolphins in the bay, swimming free, along with the whales and seals.

  15. I will believe the dolphin died of a fungal infection to the lungs when they show me the autopsy report, which won’t happen soon I am sure.

  16. I recently visited San Carlos, Sonora, and learned about the deadly dolphinarium of San Carlos and was appalled. I am compelled to do something. I am an educator and semi-professional marine biologist from the United States who documented and published an article of the wild dolphin behavior and populations on the southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. I also co-founded the non-profit Talamanca Dolphin Foundation there, which worked to promote education, research, protection and responsible eco-tourism with visitors and people in the small village of Manzanillo, Talamanca, Costa Rica. It was a very successful, grass-roots effort. I recently visited San Carlos, Sonora, and learned of the notorious Dolphinarium of San Carlos from your news article of 2013. I was sickened by the illegal and cruel captivity of the dolphins there. However, I was proud to read about the valiant work and commitment by Biologist Maria del Sol Guerro to save and protect these captive dolphins. At the same time, I was excited to see wild dolphins in the bays. I think San Carlos is an excellent place to do something that would protect these wild dolphins, while at the same time become a positive and economic eco-tourism attraction. It could be based on the model that worked for us in Manzanillo, Costa Rica. I would love to share this information with Marisol or anyone else who would be interested. It could even be an arm of the government of Sonora, to replace the idea of reopening the dolphinarium. In Costa Rica, the Foundation started responsible dolphin-watching tours conducted by trained local boatmen/women, which turned out to be a great benefit to the local economy while at the same time educating and protecting the wild dolphins. I am convinced that educational, ecologically sound dolphin-watching tours would be much more attractive to most US and Canadian visitors than going to a dolphinarium. I would greatly appreciate your help in contacting Marisol, or the right person for this information. Thank you for your most important in-depth news coverage of these events, and any help you could give me.

  17. Hi Ann, I actually run a relatively new non profit here ,

    Our wild dolphins in San Carlos are always on my mind and I have been planning on doing a research project on them for quite some time since no one at the moment is actively studying them. The local pod has already become a huge tourism draw to San Carlos and I would say, anecdotally, that 80% of the boat tours in San Carlos during summer months spend time looking for the dolphins and trying to interact with them. I would also say most of the charter captains have been given no training on dolphin friendly boating procedures or know much at all about dolphins in general. I myself often take my sailing students over to the estuary and sail with and around them on our 32 foot monohull. Just last week I was sailing with them and am going to start a data base of ID shots.

    Not even my good friend and local PHD Marine Mammal Biologist Juan Pablo Gallo knows exactly how many dolphins currently live in San Carlos. I don’t think he has had a grad student do any research here for over a decade now.

    I would love to chat with you about the program in Costa Rica and how we might be able to incorporate some of that here. Drop me an email at the following address when you have a moment!!

    Saludos, Vince

  18. Now they have just brought 4 more dolphins THIS WEEK to the deadly Delfinario. The Governor says it is for therapy for children. Where did they get them? They have expanded the facility!!!!

  19. There is no scientific evidence that “dolphin therapy” with captive dolphins benefits children with autism or other disorders. (Hal Herzog, PhD. Psychology Today) In fact there are risks and costs involved that are hard to justify. I would guess that the real reason that the Governor, and those with economic interests in developing San Carlos, are the potential beneficiaries of a newly “stocked” Delfinario. I don’t know if they have also considered the ethical question of holding captive dolphins, whether illegally captured or transferred from another facility. I would like to propose an alternative that has worked for us. I led a positive, non-profit program in Manzanillo, Costa Rica, which promoted education, research, protection and responsible eco-tourism with the wild, resident coastal population of Tucuxi (Sotalia guinensis) and Bottlenose (Tursiops truncates) dolphins in near coastal waters. Through education and training of local boatman of the village, we helped establish an on-going “Dolphin Watching” program that has continued to this day. There is a big international interest in visitors and scientists in watching and learning about the wild dolphins there. This effort has protected the welfare of the dolphins, and inspired hundreds of visitors and scientists since 1998. I would be happy to share our positive experience with any in San Carlos who would like to establish a similar project. This could be a positive alternative to keeping captive dolphins for questionable motives. Ann DiBerardinis, Talamanca Dolphin Foundation, Manzanillo, Talamanca, Costa Rica. US:

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