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Row leads to dolphin slaughter

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 16:24 24/01/2013
dolphin
SLAUGHTER: Bottlenose dolphins have been killed in the dozens in the Solomons.

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A renegade band of Solomon Islanders is responsible for the slaughter this week of about 900 bottlenose dolphins, says a group that was paying for the killing to stop.

Fanalei villagers on Malaita said the American Earth Island Institute had promised last April to pay them S$2.4 million (NZ$400,000) over two years not to kill dolphins, but villagers claim they had only received 700,000.

The Solomon Star said the killing was in retaliation for the underpayment.

But a statement to Stuff from the institute said: "The sudden decision to kill dolphins lies with a disparate group from one community, Fanalei, who broke from the consensus we have built around ending the dolphin killing".

"Many in this very community we helped are furious over these renegades," the institute said.

It claimed international traders in live dolphins – which Earth Island called "the international blood dolphin captive trade" – supported the killing because they could then be seen as saving the mammals.

Fanalei Association chairman Atkin Fakaia said the villagers had to resume killing as they needed to survive.

"They go back to hunting dolphin in order to sell the dolphin teeth and meat to earn money," he said.

The Solomon Islands for the last 15 years has been the main source of live dolphins for marine exhibits around the world.

In a controversial but lucrative trade large pods of dolphins are penned at Guadalcanal and then airfreighted to marine parks around the world.

Earth Island Institute said in its statement that for more than three years it had helped three villages with funding for infrastructure rebuilding and to pay schools fees for the children.

Solomon Islanders needed to be convinced to stop killing dolphins.

"Many of the community members have seen that the killing of dolphins for teeth and food is not in their best interests," the institute said.

Earth Island said the live dolphin trade was not sustainable either, but it was a complex story.

"The Solomon Island captive dolphin traders, who continue to make millions of dollars on the blood trade in dolphins, have been the biggest opponents of the end of the Solomon Islands dolphin kills," it said.

"They have claimed they are 'saving' dolphins by capturing them instead of letting them be killed - just like the captive dolphin traders do in Taiji, Japan."

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Earth Island said traders made as much as US$150,000 (NZ$178,000) per dolphin, sold to marine parks in China, the Middle East, or the Caribbean.

"They oppose Earth Island's efforts to end the capture of wild dolphins for international trafficking, and they criticise our efforts to end the slaughter of dolphins in the Solomon Islands," it said.

"There are reasons to believe there is corruption at work, and the dolphin captivity forces are behind this tragic resumption of the dolphin kill."

Earth Island said it faced tremendously difficult forces in the Solomons: "Dolphin traders, government corruption, failure to recognise the precarious status of dolphin populations in the region, and huge money being paid by outside forces to prop up and continue the dolphin trade at the expense of the ocean environment and the people of the Solomon Islands."

- Stuff

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