Target: John Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES)
Goal: End the commercial hunting and sale of dolphins in the Solomon Islands
An ongoing dispute between the Earth Island Institute and villagers in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean has resulted in the death of 900 dolphins. The slaughter comes as a huge blow to the efforts of the Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute to work with local communities to curb the hunting and sale of dolphins around the islands. Whether it is the work of a “renegade group of villagers” or the failure to provide development funds by the Earth Island Institute, the massacre is a call to action for justice for these animals and the creation of a sustainable path for their continued protection and conservation.
The Solomon Islands have long been the target of conservationists for the hunting and export of the dolphins that live in the surrounding waters to places like China and Dubai. Dolphin hunting has been practiced by native villagers on the islands for years. Villagers will drive dolphins together using boats, disorient them using stones and then drive the animals into the bay where they are more easily hunted. The captured cetaceans are then either sold locally, where their meat and teeth are used by villagers for food and currency, or sold to other countries who will pay around $150,000 for one of the creatures. The Earth Island Institute has been trying to work with local communities to stop dolphin hunting by investing in income-generating projects.
Some villagers claim that the Earth Island Institute has failed to provide the money it promised to these communities, forcing them to engage in the lucrative hunting of dolphins. The Earth Island Institute claims that money that was promised to be distributed for local initiatives has been seized by a renegade group of villagers who may be responsible for the recent attack. In 2005, dolphin hunting was banned in the Solomon Islands, but that decision was overturned by a court in 2007. The result is a political and legal conundrum that has resulted in the death of hundreds of these animals.
It is time for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) to draw a clear line on the issue and propose a solution that respects the wishes of the communities, conservationists and animals who all have a stake in the matter. The Earth Island Institute must be more responsible in their commitment to and distribution of funds to the island dwellers. If these communities see dolphin hunting as the most economically viable option, they will not stop. But the individuals who continue to kill and trap the animals must be held accountable and punished. The CITES must take the lead role in negotiating a deal and making sure that another massacre like this does not occur.
Dear Mr. John Scanlon,
Nine hundred dolphins are dead in the Solomon Islands as a result of a lack of a clear message on the preservation of the cetaceans that surround the islands. The Earth Island Institute has been working with village communities on the islands to try to curb the dolphin trapping and hunting industry that has seen these innocent creatures mercilessly killed and shipped across the world. The Solomon Islands have been a source of dolphins for countries like China and Dubai who will pay up to $150,000 and some villagers on the island hunt the dolphins for their meat. A 2005 ruling outlawed dolphin hunting on the island but it was overturned in 2007, leaving the fate of these creatures in legal limbo.
In light of the recent dispute, some villagers say that the Earth Island Institute hasn’t paid the money they committed for local income-generating projects. The Earth Island Institute claims that the money has been snatched up by renegades who they think may be responsible for the latest horrific slaughter. Whoever may be at fault, you cannot let these dolphins continue to die. Please take the lead in mediating an agreement that honors both the Earth Island Institute’s continued noble efforts to conserve the animals and the villagers desire to see other economic opportunities open up in exchange for their cooperation in stopping dolphin hunting. The Earth Island Institute must be more accountable for their funding, but those responsible for the slaughter of the dolphins should be sent a clear message that their actions are not acceptable. Please work with the legal bodies of the Solomon Islands to ensure that a sustainable solution is reached.
[Your Name Here]
Photograph: Robin Moore/NGS/Corbis