A joint-operation over the weekend has led to the release of 27 dolphins held captive from floating cages at Mbungana, Central Islands province.
The raid involved Compliance Officers from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) and Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
This operation was conducted by the Ministry of Fisheries following reports that a certain operator has been holding a number of captured dolphins in floating cages at Mbungana in contravention of the Fisheries Management Act 2015.
As a result police assistance was sought and the raid was mounted to free the dolphins.
The Ministry’s acting permanent secretary Ferral Lasi confirmed the raid saying that as the responsible Ministry they have to do their duty which includes enforcement of the Fisheries Management Act 2015 specifically the Fisheries (Dolphin Export Ban) Regulation 2013.
“The current Regulation Prohibit any exports of dolphin, 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 SBD$500,000.00 or imprisonment for 2 years or both.”
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.
Mr Lasi however, could not say whether there is a link between Kolombangara and Mbungana regarding dolphins that were held in the pens.
However, initial findings had indicated a possible link but that can only be confirmed after the investigation is completed.
The Acting Permanent Secretary said investigation is continuing and that perpetrators could be charged once investigations are completed.
The Ministry of Fisheries regulation on dolphins clearly spells out that it is illegal to capture or hold dolphins in captivity.
Apart from the regulation which bans export of dolphins, the Ministry of Fisheries also has in place a policy not to issue license for trade of dolphins either export or capture because of likely adverse effect it will have on our tuna exports to overseas markets.
“Lobby groups can pick on such issues to campaign against us and if they do it will affect our tuna industry.”
“With this policy in place we are protecting our Tuna Industry especially Soltuna and its 2000 plus employees from losing their jobs and other spin-off businesses if lobby groups finds out about the illegal dolphin trade,” he added.
By Francis Pituvaka
MFMR Communication Officer