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SOLMARINE Mammal Breeding Centre and our legal team have filed and lodged a lawsuit in the High court of Solomon islands for $31,819,591.03, Civil case no. 526 of 2016 as claim for the raid and destruction of our dolphin captive breeding facility on Bungana island, central islands province, by officials of the Fisheries department and the police in the early hours of Saturday 29th October, 2016.
This claim can be substantiated and proven with bank documents, government treasury receipts (GTR), and signed contracts which are now breached.
This captive breeding program which is 100% indigenously owned and operated, was initiated in 2009/2010 and was fully operational from 2011, took us six years to develop but sadly was destroyed by Fisheries and the police in 15 minutes.
The sad thing is that we were not given the chance to explain our side of the story.
Before we embarked on this project we made enquires with the fisheries department and the environment and conservation department and after submitting a development and management plan, we received a ‘No objection response’.
We then proceed onto invest millions of dollars of borrowed funds and our own hard earned funds.
From day one of the project we received no notice or complaints from the respective ministries.
The fundamental principle of Law ‘the Right to be heard’ has been deprived from us.
This is a sad day for us as indigenous struggling Solomon Islanders.
We now question if our rights as locals, our business interests and our investments are protected under the constitution of this country.
The project goals are aquatic veterinary medicine, dolphin disease studies & research, captive breeding programs, aquatic animal husbandry training and other related aquatic animal programs with other foreign institutions and researchers.
Export of animals born and raised in captivity is an integral part of the project to sustain the entire project and pay for all the logistics and salary of our 30 employees who are now unemployed after 6 years of employment.
As time goes this project should be self-funding but now this is not the case.
If we know this will end up this way we should not have ventured or invested money in this.
We have been to the Fisheries office on a number of occasions, to the Crown council in the AG chambers and to the prime minister’s office regarding this issue.
The last visits were in September 2016 and the response was very positive.
How it ended up like this one month later is beyond comprehension.
Also in 2014, the cabinet of the Lilo government directed the removal of this fisheries regulation that was gazzetted in 2013.
It was the Attorney General, Billy Titiulu, who advised us stakeholders.
After three years the fisheries department did nothing to formalize this cabinet directive.
What I do not understand is despite the directive from the two highest offices in the land, cabinet and prime minister’s office, fisheries department has not acted but instead adhere to this activist regulation agenda.
The constitution of this country explicitly declares that the natural resources of this country belong to its people and therefore they have the right to use it.
The captive breeding program is a cornerstone of conservation and it is allowed and encouraged under CITES Convention (international law) whereby Solomon Islands is a signatory and also in our environment and conservation Act (local law) who is the management authority.
Under CITES (international law) dolphins are categories under appendix 2 which means that it is NOT ENDANGERED and can be traded but national governments have to impose a legal quota.
This is what activists don’t want to hear or talk about.
Our greatest concern is the origin of this fisheries regulation (law) and whose benefit is it here for.
This fisheries regulation is an Animal Rights and Liberation proposal and agenda and they are the ones who benefit from it.
These groups have never contributed anything to the economic development of this nation.
It is beyond doubt that the fisheries department has been hijacked and infiltrated by these foreign groups.
I know this very well because I was a former member of the Fisheries Advisory Council and an advisor to the minister for fisheries, Nollen Leni on marine mammal issues.
During my tenure as advisor, this same proposal and agenda has come in three times but was rejected.
The fourth was to the CITES headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
I accompanied the minister to defend Solomon Islands against this activist proposal and agenda.
This was defeated on the floor of CITES and the animals committee rejected this activist agenda on the ground that there is no scientific data to support it and no correlation between tursiopsaduncas dolphins export and the tuna industry.
The other fundamental reason is that it is general, broad and interferes with the constitutional rights of local people.
I challenge the Fisheries Advisory Council,who advised the fisheries minister in 2013, to produce the population dynamic and sustainability data, the scientific correlation data between this dolphin species and the tuna industry, other bio data-niche, migratory patterns to proof the interference and detrimental effect of this species on the tuna industry.
How come this same rejected proposal and agenda was able to be incorporated in the Fisheries Act in 2013 and made as regulation (Law)?
Have the Fisheries Advisory Council and unethical officials on the activist payroll?
Only the good lord knows.
As indigenous Solomon Islanders, we feel that the incorporation of this activist agenda into the Fisheries Act and its subsequent application as law to further the interest of foreign entities and deprive us indigenous people of our constitutional right to this resource is unfair, gross injustice and a miscarriage in the ethics and application of the law.
It only serves the interest of these foreigners.
Look at the regulation.
Fees for foreign purseiners is USD15, 000 (SBD 100,000), long liners USD10, 000 (SBD 75,000) but dolphin exporters SBD$1 million (according to fisheries licensing officer).
For penalties for breaches of fisheries Act by foreign vessels is SBD$25, 000 but for us local dolphin stakeholders it is SBD$500,000 (1/2 MILLION).
Where is the fairness? Activists always brainwash government officials about conservation and argue about dolphin exports and the tuna industry.
What I do not understand is that USA kills 30-65,000 dolphins annually in its tuna industry in the Eastern Pacific.
Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and Vietnam kill between 5,000 and 15,000 dolphins annually.
Malaita, Makira and Ulawa kill up to 1,000 annually and yet it does not affect their tuna industry.
Only the 35 captive bred animals kept in Bungana Island will ruin the tuna industry and this is why fisheries and police (21 officers) have to raid and destroy the facility.
You must be joking! We are not hardcore criminals to deserve such treatment.
Police and fisheries raided the facility with no state warrant at all.
This is not a cognizable crime happening in the eyes of the police that you have no time to obtain a warrant.
You should have called us for a table discussion.
We have been there for six years.
Also as we know from the police Act of 2013 that only for Customs and Immigration that a warrant is not required.
How come that police inspector who led the raid did not know these simple procedures in the execution of his duties?
How did he get his promotion?
We feel that participants of the raid have been ignorant, incompetent and unprofessional and have no public relation qualities at all and are a liability to the government.
They should be suspended or better off terminated.
They should be in North Korea than in a civilian democratic society like Solomon Islands.
We do support the majority officers of the fisheries and police department who are ethical and professional in the discharge of their duties.
Despite all these, as responsible indigenous citizens who strive for development and fairness, we extend an olive branch to the government that an amicable solution can be reached outside the judicial system.
The innocent government has to bear the brunt of this irresponsible, ignorant and unprofessional action of some of its employees.
Where are the activist sponsors of this fisheries regulation?
Are they hiding?
The fact is that they will never pay a cent to assist the government for all these mess initiated by them.
We at Solmarine Mammal Breeding Centre ta are ready and we would welcome any dialogue and discussion with the government on this issue.
By DR BADDELEY ANITA