Amidst happier stories of a deformed dolphin finding friendship with an unlikely crew of sperm whales, and a smartypants dolphin entreating the help of a diver to remove a fishhook, we have tragic news to report in the world of Cetaceans.
People from the village of Fanalei, on the island of Malaita, have traditionally hunted dolphins to provide meat, income, and dowries for the village. However, the Solomon Islands have been notorious among conservationists for selling live dolphins for sea aquariums in China and Dubai, where a captive dolphin can fetch up to $150,000.
The Institute had been working with islanders of Malaita for two years to try to stop the slaughter, and brokered a deal to pay up to $400,000 in small community development project grants in exchange for villagers calling off the hunt. This is where accounts of the misunderstanding vary.
The islanders say the Institute failed to pay them, and that they only received a third of the agreed-upon funds. Atkin Fakaia, a community leader now living in the capital, Honiara, told Radio Australia the disillusioned Fanalei villagers had gone back to hunting when the money did not come in.
Earth Island Institute says that villagers living in Honiara had seized control of the funds and refused to properly distribute the money, so payment was stopped until Institute personnel could assist in rectifying the situation. During this short time, they believe a renegade group fueled the hunt as retaliation.
“The renegade group grabbed funds that were supposed to go to the community and that resulted in a lot of the discord,” said David Phillips, who oversees international dolphin protection efforts for Earth Island. “This is a tragedy. It’s bad for dolphins. It’s bad for the community. It’s bad for the Solomon Islands as a nation to have this blot on the record.”
What is clear, however, is that this misunderstanding has resulted in one of the worst cases of dolphin slaughter in the Solomon Islands for some time, and is unfortunately emblematic of a larger struggle to preserve species and ecosystems in areas governed by tradition and muddled by corruption.
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