A DOLPHIN captive centre police raided at Mbungana, Central Province, last Saturday was operated by the country’s only qualified veterinary Dr Baddeley Anita.
Central Province premier Patrick Vasuni confirmed this to the Solomon Star.
“…yes the province has granted Dr Anita a licence to keep dolphins at Mbungana,” MrVasuni said.
“But this is for the purpose of research only and not for export,” he added.
He explained the licence was issued based on the request Dr Anita provided that the dolphins will be kept for research purposes.
It’s understood Dr Anita had also been issued a licence by the Environment Division to carry out research on dolphins.
But Fisheries authorities said the caging of the live dolphins was against the Fisheries Act.
During the raid, they freed 27 dolphins being kept in floating cages.
Dr Anita has not responded to an email the Solomon Star sent to him for comments on the matter.
Mr Vasuni said he was not aware of Saturday’s raid police carried out at Mbungana.
Police in Tulagi were also not aware of the raid.
Saturday’s joint-operation was conducted by the Ministry of Fisheries and police in Honiara.
It involved Compliance Officers from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) and Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
This was following reports that Dr Anita has been holding a number of captured dolphins in floating cages at Mbungana in contravention of the Fisheries Management Act 2015.
Earlier last week the Ministry’s compliance officers stationed at Noro with assistance from Police had also conducted a similar raid at a location at Kolombangara Island in the Western province and released a number of dolphins that were kept in a pen there.
Authorities suspect the operators of the Kolombangara holding pen may be the ones supplying dolphins to Dr Anita.
According to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), the current Regulation Prohibit any exports of dolphins, therefore any person who catches for sale and retain in captivity for sale, exports any live dolphin or operates a dolphin holding facility for the purposes for sale or export, commits an offence and is liable for a fine under this Regulation which is $500,000 or imprisonment for two years or both.
The ministry said investigation into the incidents is continuing and perpetrators could be charged once investigations are completed.
By STEPHEN DIISANGO