A pod of 40 wild-caught dolphins is set to be illegally exported from the Solomon Islands to the Bahamas, says an international animal protection group.Plans were in train to put the dolphins on two charter flights as early as Tuesday to pass through Fiji, Tahiti and Mexico, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) said in a statement.
The export plan has prompted New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to write to Solomons Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza seeking an assurance its ban on live dolphin exports remains in place. Last week, he assured parliament the ban was still in place.
The Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre (SIMMEC) captured the dolphins in 2002. The WSPA said the centre has been attempting to sell them overseas despite the Solomons government ban imposed in January.
In July 2004, SIMMEC exported 28 bottlenose dolphins to an aquatic park in Mexico sparking international outrage.
Following 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 overseas boycotts of Solomons fish products in protest at dolphin exports.
WSPA campaign manager Heather Potter said in Sydney she was certain the exports were going ahead despite Solomons government assurances about its ban.
WSPA understood from reliable sources that a charter flight was due in the Solomons capital Honiara on Monday and would fly out to Nadi in Fiji on Tuesday, she said.
SIMMEC was showing blatant disregard for the Solomons government ban, international treaties and public opinion, 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. This export must be stopped,” she said.
WSPA 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, Potter said.
SIMMEC operator, Canadian Christopher Porter, was in the Dominican Republic and could not be contacted immediately for comment.
His company has been criticised for keeping dolphins in overcrowded and shallow sea pens at Gavutu near Honiara.
New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter said on the weekend that if the live dolphin exports occurred “the European Union will ban tuna exports from Solomons to Europe”.
“It will really hurt the Solomons if this takes place,” he said.
Comment was being sought from Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell and the Australian High Commission in Honiara.
Live-trained dolphins can fetch up to $US30,000 ($A41,000) on the world market to entertain crowds at aquatic parks.
Source: The Age (Australia)