Solomon Islands dolphin exports

Solomon Islands seems to be moving toward banning live dolphin exports. Aquariums in Mexico and the Caribbean, which market "swim with dolphins" programs to tourists, are willing to pay high prices for the animals, and Solomon Islands has been a source.

In 2003, the country made headlines when foreign journalists on Guadalcanal to cover the deployment of an Australian-led peacekeeping force witnessed dolphins being loaded onto a cargo jet at Honiara International Airport. Despite widespread condemnation, the trade in endangered species continued, and in 2004, several scuba diving associations proposed a boycott of dive tours to the Solomons.

Earlier this week, 40 dolphins presently held in an enclosure just east of Tulagi, across Iron Bottom Sound from Honiara, were to have been shipped to the Bahamas. In protest, environmental groups have threatened to pressure canneries in American Samoa and elsewhere to refuse Solomon Islands tuna, the country's leading export, and government officials are now claiming to have no knowledge of the planned shipment.

Unfortunately, the Solomon Islands government has a poor record when it comes to protecting their unique flora and fauna. Each year, thousands of rare birds, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, and aquarium fish are exported to Asia, North America, and Europe. Local communities have had to fight an ongoing battle with their own government to protect their rainforests from clearcutting by Malaysian loggers.

Recently, the Solomon Islands delegate to the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting voted with Japan to scrap the longstanding moratorium on commercial whaling. After strong protests from Australia and elsewhere, the Solomon Islands government repudiated their vote and demoted the individual directly responsible.

Widespread government corruption has been identified as a leading cause of situations such as these, and the spark which ignited the ethnic fighting which brought the country to its knees from 1999 to 2003. The Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was supposed to have corrected all of this, but many officials active during "the troubles" are still in office today. It must be noted here that Solomon Islands is a safe and friendly country to visit, although public facilities are often unreliable due to the poor governance.

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