Dolphin captures in Solomon Islands are linked to Panama, Dubai

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2007:

GAVATU– As of July 24, 2007, Canadian dolphin broker
Christopher Porter was reportedly holding as many as 50 recently
captured dolphins in sea pens at Malaita in the Solomon Islands.
“Ocean Embassy, also known as the Wildlife International
Network, is in the Solomon Islands trying to export the dolphins to
Dubai,” Dolphin Project founder Ric O’Barry told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Five new dolphin facilities in Dubai want dolphins, whales, polar
bears–every marine mammal they can get. Ocean Embassy is the broker.
“Somehow Ocean Embassy has been able to stay out of the media
regarding Dubai,” O’Barry added. “They brokered the deal but Porter
gets all of the attention. Ocean Embassy represents big money,”
O’Barry continued. “They dwarf Porter’s operation. The parent
corporation began selling securities via a private placement offering
in the United States in late 2003. At present, the parent company is
represented by 195 investors from the United States, Mexico, the
United Kingdom, and France.

“Capital raised through the private placement offering
enabled the founders and management team to create Ocean Embassy
Panama as the inaugural site for the company,” O’Barry said. “Ocean
Embassy Panama is located in the San Carlos District on the Pacific
coast of Panama. The company began construction in San Carlos in
August 2006.”
The San Carlos area “could become the next Orlando,” former
Sea World senior dolphin trainer Mark Simmons told Los Angeles Times
staff writer Chris Kraul. Kraul identified Simmons as executive vice
president of Wildlife International Network.
“As proposed, ” wrote Kraul, “the $500-million resort and
residential community would be built on a 700-acre site 50 miles west
of Panama City. The centerpiece would be an interactive aquatic park
where tourists would pay $100 or more to frolic for a few minutes
with the friends of Flipper.”
Noting that polls show 81% of Panamanians oppose dolphin
captures, Kraul predicted that, “In the end, the fate of the Ocean
Embassy theme park may hinge on politics. President Martin Torrijos
has not taken a public stand, but is said to be concerned that the
park might spur U.S. environmentalists to oppose a bilateral free
trade agreement that goes before lawmakers in both countries later
this year.”
O’Barry and others have been concerned that the Ocean Embassy
development in Panama might become a base for exporting dolphins
throughout the world, whether captured in Panamian waters or
“The export of Panamanian dolphins and whales was in fact
part of the free trade negotiations, conducted secretly while the
Panamanian people were being assured that there will be no such
exports,” charged Eric Jackson of the Panama News.
Contending that he is “working to provide a live alternative
use” for dolphins who would otherwise be hunted for their teeth and
meat, Porter on July 3, 2007 challenged Ric O’Barry of the Dolphin
Project to debate–“Ideally at Fanalei in the Solomon Islands, a
village that continues to practice dolphin hunting,” but perhaps
instead at “a Starbucks in San Francisco.”
O’Barry accepted the invitation, but declined the Solomon
Islands venue in light of a July 2, 2007 Reuters report about how
“Followers of a warlord” in that region “tortured and beheaded at
least three men 10 days ago and razed an entire village” of 500
people, ahead of the anticipated arrival of 2,000 international
peacekeepers. O’Barry asked that the debate be held “in the offices
of the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Geneva, Switzerland,”
with experts on zoonotic disease transmission between humans and
dolphins present.
In addition, O’Barry asked Porter to “include your fellow
dolphin dealers in the debate. Their names are Dr. Ted N. Turner,
Robin Friday, Mark Simmons and Dr. Ted Hammond.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE took the opportunity to ask Porter, “How many
dolphins per year are killed for teeth and meat by the residents of
the Solomon Islands? How many are killed by the people you are
working with? How does this compare to the mortality rate in capture
and transportation? Can you cite any examples, from anywhere in the
world, where promoting a dolphin capture industry has led to a net
reduction in the numbers of dolphins killed for other purposes?”
Porter replied four times within the next seven hours,
without actually answering any of the questions–but Solomon Islands
political office holder Lawrence Makili pointed out that, “There are
only two places in Malaita,” the island where Porter has his dolphin
capture operation, “that hunt dolphins for teeth: Lau, at the
northern end of the island, and Fanalei at the southern end of the
Island. The Fanalei people were originally from Lau,” Makili
explained. Other Malaita residents “don’t hunt dolphins.” And even
the dolphin hunters hunt dolphins “primarily to get teeth for the
bride price, not for food,” Makili said.
Both ANIMAL PEOPLE and O’Barry also asked Porter to account
for the dolphins he captured in his first major export venture in the
Wrote O’Barry, “It is my understanding that you originally
captured about 170 dolphins back in 2003. Of those, 28
were transported to Cancun, Mexico. As you know, several of them
died at Park Nizuk. In 2004, 15 of the survivors were transferred
to Cozumel. If these figures are correct, this means that about 142
dolphins stayed with you in Fanalei. In 2004, you stated that
you only had 44 dolphins left. In 2005 you had 26, and in 2006 you
had 20. Then there were none. This was in June 2007, shortly
before you started capturing dolphins for Dubai.”
Porter did not account for any of the 122 dolphins whose fate
is unknown.

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