Dolphin captures in the Solomons
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2003:
CANCUN, Mexico; HONORIA, Solomon Islands–One of as many
as 200 dolphins who were captured in the Solomon Islands during a
lawless interim before the July 21 arrival of Australian peacekeeping
troops reportedly died on July 28, a week after 28 of the dolphins
were flown to the Parque Nizuc swim-with complex in Cancun, Mexico.
Twenty-eight dolphins arrived, anyhow. Greenpeace claimed
33 dolphins were actually loaded for the flight.
The chartered Brazilian-owned DC-10 carrying the dolphins
took off only hours ahead of the arrival of the 2,000 Australian
soldiers, who quickly ended 18 months of civil strife. Guadalcanal
island warlord Harold Keke surrendered to the Australian forces on
August 13. Keke led a coup attempt in 2000 that led to the deaths of
about 50 people and the destruction of 15 villages along the Weather
Coast of Guadalcanal, the largest island in the Solomons archipelago.
How many dolphins will die as an indirect consequence of
Keke’s insurrection is still anyone’s guess.
Nearly 24 hours after notifying Mexican authorities of the
death of the dolphin, Parque Nizuc veterinarian David Berron denied
the demise, reported Associated Press writer Veronica Gaymer. The
cause of death was unknown, as was the fate of most of the estimated
170 dolphins still held captive in six shallow sea pens on Gela
Potential buyers from Thailand, Taiwan, and Japan were said to have
“Where dolphins usually can be seen cavorting through the
waves, they can now only be seen thrashing around in a shallow pen
off a private jetty. Gangs hired to guard the wharf have chased
journalists trying to film the pen in motorboats, and beat a
cameraman’s boatman. The British High commissioner, Brian Baldwin,
was chased away after taking photographs,” wrote Alex Spillius of
the London Daily Telegraph.
Camerman Frank Atu told Kathy Marks of The Independent that
the boatman was “beaten nonstop for five minutes,” and was left
bleeding from the mouth.
Melbourne Age reporter Craig Skehan wrote that some dolphins
died while being taken to the sea pens, and at least four more died
from banging their heads against the posts or becoming entangled and
drowning in the netting.
Skehan said he had “obtained photographs of some dolphins who were
slaughtered for their meat by a Solomon Islands man who is organizing
the dolphin captures. One shows a dolphin foetus taken from the
“Many people are using dynamite to capture reef fish for the
dolphins,” Honaria village resident Andrew Kulebe, 28, told Skehan.
Gela elder Matthew Kuri, 98, said that the dolphin captures
were illegal because they were not approved by the islanders.
“Dolphins are like people. Selling them overseas is not in
our culture,” Kuri said.
Local fishers were reportedly paid $260 U.S. per dolphin
captured, but Waves Consulting received $46,000 apiece for the
dolphins who were delivered to Cancun, Humane Society International
wildlife and habitats program manager Nicola Beynon told Alison Rehn
of the Brisbane Courier-Mail.
Wrote Spillius, “In its application to the government,
Waves Consulting, the company behind the venture, said it planned
to open a resort on Gavutu, a tiny island off Honiara, with luxury
cabins over dolphin pools.”
But there was no sign of any such development being underway,
The most visible representative of Waves Consulting appears
to be Christopher Porter, 33. Porter handled marine mammals at
Sealand of the Pacific, in Victoria, British Columbia, from
October 1989 until the facility folded in October 1993. From October
1994 until June 1998 he held a similar position at the Vancouver
Aquarium. Since July 1998, Porter told Solomon Islands officials,
he has worked for the Aquario di Genova in Italy. His wife is
reportedly from the Solomons.
Dolphin Project founder Ric O’Barry traced the Vancouver
Aquarium connection on a hunch after noticing the expression on the
face of Vancouver Aquarium director John Nightingale when O’Barry
described the Solomon Islands situation to him at a July 21 meeting
concerning Nightingale’s application to obtain a dolphin as
companion for Spinnaker, a Pacific whitesided dolphin obtained in
2001, who has been alone since the January 2002 death of a much
older Pacific whitesided dolphin named Whitewings.
Nightingale appears unlikely to win permission from the
Vancouver Parks Board to import any dolphin who was not already in
captivity as of 1996, when the aquarium agreed to a policy of not
accepting wild-captured marine mammals except for rescue cases.