Protecting Dolphins in the Solomons
By Lawrence Makili
Pacific Islands Director
Dolphin Safe Tuna Monitoring
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
For the past 10 years, I have been working with Mark Berman, Director of Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project’s Dolphin Safe program, to end the catching and killing of dolphins in my home of the Solomon Islands. I was born in the Solomons and have lived my whole life here.
Tuna is big industry here, so when we convinced tuna companies to use only Dolphin Safe tuna fishing methods, we also got them to help us get the government to stop outside agents coming to the Solomons to capture dolphins to send them away to aquariums around the world. This wasn’t easy. These outside agents were making lots of money off the backs of dolphins. We won a government ban on export of live dolphins 3 years ago, and I’m happy to say that that ban is still in place thanks to this work.
Our most difficult issue was trying to end the killing of dolphins by some villages on the island of Malaita. Dolphins have been killed for hundreds of years, both for their meat and for trade in the dolphin teeth. We knew it would not be easy to convince the villagers to end killing of dolphins.
But Berman and I kept at it, meeting and talking to the villagers for four years. Earth Island has provided funding to help the villages do improvement projects. Some of the funding agreements have worked well and some have not, but we are still working for the day when the dolphins of the Solomons are all protected.
The good news is in the village of Bita’ama, located on the north end of Malaita. Recently I met with Bita'ama Chief Emmanuel Tigi. He supports the permanent halt to the hunting of dolphins and has stated the village wants to promote dolphin-based tourism. Right now, we are helping them raise money by presenting cultural dances and displays showing how the village will promote tourism and their support for protecting dolphins.
I am pleased to provide the people of Bita’ama help with the best ways to have tourists enjoy dolphins while not causing any harm. I even, out of my own pocket, bought them paint and fabric to make banners about their effort, to go along with the funds that EII has provided.
The Young Dolphin Free Campaigners from Bita’ama arrived in Honiara on the 27th June and had their first performance that night at The National Art Gallery. It is a bold step they are taking, and many young people are so excited about it.
The village of Fanalei is a harder environment with different groups of the village wanting different things, and one faction taking steps that broke apart our agreement and led a return to the killing of dolphins. But I still have hopes for success there too.
We have made a lot of progress in the Solomons for dolphins over the past years, and I am proud to help lead this effort. Thank you to those of you at Earth Island reading this for your help and support.
Photos by Lawrence Makili/Earth Island Institute.