Monday, 31 March 2008 11:10 AM

Premier Lokopio to Stop Export of Live Dolphins from Western Province

The International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute is thanking Mr. Alex Lokopio, Premier of the Western Province of the Solomon Islands, for rejecting the capture and export of live dolphins.

Mr. Alex Lokopio, Premier, stated that no dolphins would be caught and no dolphins would be exported; instead, he said, the dolphins of the Western Provinces of the Solomon Islands would remain free.

Premier Lokopio was responding to concerns that Earth Island would not allow global companies to catch and export tuna from the Solomon's if the government allowed exploitation of wild dolphins for captivity, a violation of the international standards for Dolphin Safe tuna.

Trafficking in live dolphins has become a lucrative source of funds for international operators who sell such dolphins to aquariums and "swim-with-dolphins" programs that are popular in tourist spots. These dolphin traffickers are especially active in countries that do not have strong environmental laws. But the wild dolphins involved often die during the capture and transport process, and have shortened life spans in captivity.

"We are very pleased Premier Lokopio has come out so forcefully against the trafficking in Solomon Islands dolphins from the Western Provinces," stated David Phillips, Director of the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island. "Dolphins are worth more to the people of the Solomon Islands alive in the wild, as part of a careful eco-tourism program, rather than putting them through the stress of captures and exports, providing a few dolphin traffickers with money at the expense of the Solomon's' natural heritage."

Lawrence Makili, a representative of Earth Island in the Solomon Islands and a member of the city council of Honiara, stated that being a tourist hotspot Premier Lokopio has wisely put a stop to this exploitive scheme. "We thank the Premier and pledge to work with him and the people of the Western Provinces to protect dolphins and other marine life," said Mr. Makili.

While this may be seen as a victory for proponents of the ban, dolphins can still be exported from other areas in the Solomon Islands, as the previous government removed a ban on the capture and export of these dolphins last year. Earth Island is now targeting Singapore as there are talks that they may be interested.

Earth Island staff has also vowed to end the exploitation of wild dolphins in the Solomon Islands as part of its global program to prevent the killing of dolphins in tuna nets and to stop cruel captures of wild dolphins for captivity.