The Solomon Islands Fisheries Minister, Nollen Leni, has defended the decision to lift the ban on leidolphin exports to overseas markets in light of accusations from animal welfare groups.Yesterday, the Minister of Fisheries Mr. Nollen Leni said that the Solomon Islands Government has never broken any laws to export dolphins. Mr Leni said the exporting company had in fact followed the investment regulations of Solomon Islands when it set up its dolphin training facilities at Gavutu Island.
He said the courts had also ruled in favor of the company twice when animal welfare groups pressured the government to block the lucrative trade. Mr Leni said arguments expressed by animal activists based on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species on endangered species (CITES) were completely baseless.
Mr Leni said the CITES is not a body of law, arguing that it is just a set of agreed principles by countries to put in place measures to manage their resources.
"Nobody, especially the NGOs' has told us what laws we have broken to allow the export of dolphins," he said. "We will never be convinced by any arguments that based merely on unproven data."
The Minister said the CITES Secretariat wrote to him this year putting in place clear guidelines to be followed if Solomon Islands wants to export live dolphins. He said the dolphin exporting company, Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Center and Exporters (SIMMECE) has developed internationally required standard pens to train dolphins captured from the wild.
"The company has met all the required international standards similar to the ones in the US," he said. "I am surprised that some groups fail to acknowledge this."
Mr Leni said activists have failed to rally international criticism against other bigger countries in Central America that involved largely in dolphin trade for many years.
"It is crazy that they pick on a small country that has just started venturing into dolphin trade," he said. "Perhaps they've just woken up." He further said that activists never provided data on the number of dolphins killed by activities of bigger fishing companies overseas.
Meanwhile, with the dolphins on their way to Dubai, local environmentalist, Lawrence Makili, said that he is still pursuing his case on the dolphin issue.
"I'm still pursuing my case to the land owners at Gela, Central province, where SIMMEC Company is located. I am preparing to file another court case," says Mr. Makili. He alleged that there are at least 50 dolphins earmarked for export before the end of 2007.