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August 18, 2010

Solomons Dolphin Saga Continues

Trade under review, but still happening

Humane Society International

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    To lack such freedom is a tragedy. Duncan Noakes/iStockphoto

In 2007, the Solomon Islands government announced its intention to establish an annual export quota of 80 dolphins per year after a law banning the export of live dolphins was successfully challenged in court in 2006 by Marine Exports Limited. In response, two additional capture operators were licensed to capture wild dolphins for export.

An Assessment Workshop on Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), held in August 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cetacean Specialist Group and hosted in Samoa by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, concluded that the status of T. aduncus in Solomon Islands waters is unknown and that there was an urgent need to assess the populations being subjected to removals.

Nevertheless, the Solomon Islands government issued the necessary paperwork to allow further exports and sent two shipments of seven and 11 dolphins to the Philippines in December 2008 and January 2009, respectively, and a shipment of nine dolphins to Malaysia in December 2009.

Since then, there has been continued concern expressed by cetacean experts about the Solomon Islands dolphin trade, and in April 2009, the Solomon Islands dolphin trade was placed into Significant Trade Review by the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)—an extreme measure that is only imposed when trade is suspected of being unsustainable. The results of the review are pending while capture of live dolphin for trade continues.

In early 2010, one of the capture operators licensed in Solomon Islands announced that he was ending his operations there and in August 2010 he released the remaining dolphins he had been holding in pens.

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