Saturday, 30 June 2007 9:34 AM

Porter Reveals Plans to Export Dolphins

The owner of the Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre on Gella, Christopher Potter, revealed that he intends to export live dolphins to fund his rural development projects.

Mr Porter says that the main focus of his project is building a unique resort which offers people time to be with dolphins. "As a socialist capitalist my intention has always been to have as much of an economic impact for the benefit of as many as I can," said Porter. "A captive breeding program will ensure that the wild capture of dolphins will not be necessary in the future."

Mr Porter stated that one of his primary aims is to breed dolphins and assist villagers, in certain parts of the country which hunt dolphins as a tradition, to try alternative use of the mammal to keep them alive.

"The export will help me to fund these projects. I don't use aid or grant money. Dolphins are a Solomon Islands resource and when you kill it, it is worth a small amount of money," Porter said. "When you keep them alive they are worth more money. So we use the money gain from the exports to fund the projects."

Mr Potter recently won a court battle with the government challenging an export ban imposed by the Kemakeza government after his controversial export of 24 live dolphins.

Meanwhile, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ICUN)has warned the Solomon Islands Government that they might be in breach of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since bottlenose dolphins are listed in Appendix II of the Convention.

The letter, which was sent to the Minister for Fisheries, Nollen Leni, stated that "although the Solomon Islands were not a Party to CITES in 2003, exports of dolphins to countries that were Parties meant that the transactions had to "substantially conform" to CITES requirements, including the need for a "non-detriment finding".

The letter went on to say that based on the lack of data at the time, they have concluded that: "Until such data are available, a non-detriment finding necessary under CITES Article IV is not possible. Therefore CITES Parties should not issue permits to import dolphins from the Solomon Islands. Unfortunately, this episode of live-capture was undertaken with little or no serious investment in assessing the conservation implications for the affected dolphin population(s)".

The Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has stated recently that his government "is not stubborn, and they do listen". Sogavare has made it clear that he will only look at the dolphin case if there are legal implications with regards to local and international laws.

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