Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Trade of live dolphins for exportation is condemned

A POD of 40 dolphins caught in the wild is set to be illegally exported from the Solomon Islands to the Bahamas, says an international animal protection group.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals says plans are in place to put the dolphins on two charter flights today. The planes would take the pods through Fiji, Tahiti and Mexico and on to the Bahamas.

The export plan has prompted New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to write to Solomons Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza seeking an assurance that the county's ban on live dolphin exports remains in place.

Last week, Mr Kemakeza assured parliament the ban was still in place.

The Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre captured the dolphins in 2002.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals said the centre had been attempting to sell them overseas despite the Solomons Government ban imposed in January.

In July 2004, the Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre exported 28 bottlenose dolphins to an aquatic park in Mexico, sparking an international outrage.

After that shipment, Mexico banned further imports and the Australian and New Zealand governments urged the Solomons Government to ban all live dolphin exports.

The Solomons ban also followed concerns expressed by local tuna fishing interests that their industry could be jeopardised through boycotts of Solomons fish products in protest at dolphin exports.

World Society for the Protection of Animals campaign manager Heather Potter said in Sydney she was certain the exports were going ahead despite the Solomons Government's assurances about its ban. The society understood from reliable sources that a charter flight was due in the Solomons capital Honiara late yesterday and would fly out to Nadi in Fiji today, she said.

The Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre was showing blatant disregard for the Solomons Government's ban, international treaties and public opinion, Ms Potter said.

"It's time this group faced up to reality and recognised that dolphins belong in the wild, not in glorified fish tanks where they will be exploited for entertainment," she said.

The society was calling on Fiji, Tahiti and Mexico to refuse transfer permits for the dolphins and for the Bahamas to refuse to import dolphins from the Solomons.

Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre operator, Canadian Christopher Porter, was in the Dominican Republic and could not be contacted for comment.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"