It has been revealed that the Solomon Islands will once again engage in the controversial dolphin trade.

Unconfirmed reports have stated that at least 30 live dolphins will be exported to the Middle East as early as next week.

The exportation of these dolphins comes four years after the last of such shipment to Mexico caused international outrage. The then Kemakeza government slapped a ban on the export of dolphins and sought to cancel the license of the company that engaged in the trade.

The dolphin trade picked up again when the current Sogavare government gave the trade its blessing. It is expected that a high-level delegation will be in Dubai to mark the arrival of the dolphins next week.

The Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre and Exporters Limited said on Friday that the dolphins would be collected from the company's pens on the island of Gavutu and flown to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Company director, Robert Satu, was quoted in the IOL website as saying that "the dolphins will be flown on two DC-10s that are scheduled to arrive on Tuesday." Satu also revealed that the company has hired a Dubai firm to provide extra security for the animals' arrival, in a bid to deter conservationists from staging any protests or trying to block the shipments.

Although Satu refused to say how much the sale was worth, he said both his company and the government would reap massive rewards. "It's big - bigger than gold or logging," said Satu.

Several international conservation groups, including the San Francisco-based Earth Islands Institute, have continuously urged the government in Honiara to stop the resumption of the live dolphin trade.

Local environmentalist, Lawrence Makili, said that the government should expect some "serious repercussions spearheaded by international environmental groups". Makili also said that the trade may affect the tourism industry which would be very unfortunate "given the fact that it is still re-building its image abroad".

Such threats of international sanctions has not deterred Satu as he is adamant that the dolphin trade could help promote economic development, with local communities establishing their own dolphin farms.

"We've already created the market - they could just follow," he said.