Solomon Islands Trades Dolphins to Malaysia

International trade in wild-caught Solomon Islands Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins continues with little sign of ending so long as the demand for dolphinariums persists. In December 2009, the Solomon Islands exported nine dolphins to Malaysia, bringing the total number captured and exported in the past 26 months to 55 animals. The Solomon Islands government has reportedly approved annual exports of up to 50 animals and with new dolphin-catching ventures springing up there, controls are desperately needed.

We have repeatedly appealed to the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to intervene because the trade is unsustainable, a concern shared by the scientific community. In June 2007, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) futilely advised against an export to Dubai asserting that the issuance of a non-detriment finding, a prerequisite for export, was impossible due to lack of information. In August 2008, a workshop of regional experts determined that the Solomon Island population of bottlenose dolphins was not nearly large enough to sustain the level of export desired by the government. Finally, in June 2009, the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission expressed concern for the trade noting “permitted levels of catch for export are not supported by the scientific evidence.” Two months earlier, the trade had been entered into the Significant Trade Review process by the CITES Animals Committee with the Committee recommending “a more cautious” export quota. This is encouraging, though with the glacial pace at which CITES moves, action could come too late for the dolphins.