Breakthrough in the Solomon Islands
AN END TO THE HUNTS!
A VICTORY FOR DOLPHINS IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
By Ric O’Barry
Save Japan Dolphins Campaign
Earth Island Institute
I want to tell you about a most exciting event – a genuine victory for dolphins in the Solomon Islands.
I’ve just spent a couple of weeks in the Solomons where we have had a major breakthrough. Thanks to several years of discussion there with local fishermen, my colleagues at Earth Island Institute, Lawrence Makili and Mark Berman, and I signed an agreement with two villages to end the killing of dolphins.
These villagers estimate 2,000 dolphins a year are killed in these hunts – sometimes more.
For centuries, the people of the communities of Fanalei and Walande of Malaita have hunted dolphins in much the same way as is done in Taiji, Japan. Fishermen in canoes go out to find the dolphin schools and herd them into shore, where they have been butchered for their meat and their teeth, which have been used like money. But, they told us, they have to go out farther and farther each year to find the dolphins, sometimes as far as paddling their canoes 15 miles out to sea. They now realize the hunt is no longer sustainable.
Earth Island proposes to help the villagers by providing them with funding and support to develop sustainable fisheries and agriculture, water sources and solar power, and eco-tourism for visitors to go see the dolphins.
“It is a very attractive project which will benefit all families in the two communities, in return for saving the lives of these harmless mammals, which we will receive no benefit from but to conserve for the betterment of this nation,” says Lawrence Makili, a citizen of the Solomons and Earth Island’s Regional Director. “That is the good thing about this deal, because at the end of the day these are our animals and not someone from overseas. They will still remain and reproduce in our waters, but for an individual to come and send them overseas for an individual benefit is a dodgy deal,” added Lawrence, alluding to the captures of wild dolphins in the Solomon Islands for foreign aquariums and swim-with-dolphins programs.
As Mark Berman, Associate Director of Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project, stated: “The Fanalei and Walande communities have halted the dolphin hunts, which is a win-win situation for the dolphins and the people of the communities. Earth Island Institute will work with the communities by developing a community development fund, small grant projects, education and other in-kind goods and services. We look forward to this opportunity.”
I was there for a very impressive signing ceremony with Mark and Lawrence from Earth Island, and Chief Wilson Filei of Fanalei, and Chief Andrew Duraadi of Walande, representing 200 families.
Two smaller dolphin-hunting communities in Malaita have already expressed interest and have now ended their hunts in anticipation of an agreement with Earth Island.
Just imagine! Thousands of dolphins in the waters of the Solomon Islands will not longer be chased and killed! These people are making a big change in their lives to save dolphins. It certainly gives me hope! If they can do it, other communities like Taiji can end the dolphin hunts, too.
Signing the Agreement Photograph by Kate Tomlinson.
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