IN the face of international condemnation and scientific advice, the government of the Solomon Islands is poised to allow another export of wild-caught dolphins.
Earth Island Institute claims that up to 18 Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins of 30 being held in pens on Gavutu are destined to be shipped to Panama in the Caribbean in the near future.
Christopher Porter, Robert Satu and Francis Chow. Wildlife International Network is reportedly the buyer/broker in the deal.
In April of this year, a working group of CITES, the body that regulates the international trade in endangered species instigated an in-depth review of trade in Solomon Islands dolphins because of its concerns about the status of dolphin populations in Solomon Island waters.
This review is still underway. In making the decision the group, acknowledging the lack of data on dolphin numbers, recommended that the maximum number that may be able to sustain being taken from Solomon Island waters in any one year is only ten animals.
“By allowing three times that number to be held in the Gavutu pens and 18 to be exported, the government is ignoring international law and is acting contrary to its own statements and advice,” said Susan Millward, Executive Director at the Washington DC-based Animal Welfare Institute.
In April 2008 at a CITES meeting, Dr. Baddley Anita, representing the government of Solomon Islands stated that “the Solomon Islands would stop exports if new scientific data showed them to be unsustainable.”
No reliable population studies of Solomon Islands dolphins have been undertaken and such studies will take several years to complete.
The Cetacean Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union, comprising some of the world’s leading dolphin experts, stated in a 2008 report co-authored by representatives of the Solomon Islands government, which are Joe Horokou and John Leqata that “the local population would have to consist of at least 5,000 dolphins to sustain removals of 100 dolphins per year for export.”
In the same report they determined that dolphin “abundance in the area of recent live-captures may be well below 5,000.”
Mark Berman, Associate Director of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project stated that “By allowing the continued capture and export of dolphins the Solomon Islands government is hurting the country’s economy and reputation as potential investors and tourists shy away.”
The last export of Solomon Islands dolphins to the Philippines was deemed illegal by the Philippine Scientific Authority and a ban on future imports of Solomon Islands dolphins was advised.
The multi-million dollar tuna business is another industry to suffer.
Minister of Fisheries Nollen Leni has been trying to marketing himself to Earth Island Institute approved dolphin-safe tuna companies overseas but will be met with stiff opposition because of the dolphin trade situation, Earth Island said yesterday.
“The Solomon Islands government must stop pandering to the few individuals who are getting rich from the dolphin exports and respect international law.”