Solomon Islands Government To Address Dolphin Dispute

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Minister says teams to be sent to villages on fact-finding mission

By Sam Bolitho and Campbell Cooney

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 31, 2013) – Solomon Islands' government says it will step in to resolve a dispute around dolphin slaughtering on one of the country's islands.

Solomon Islands' tourism minister, Samuel Manetoali, says his government will step in to resolve a dispute around dolphin slaughtering on one of the country's islands.

Earlier this month, villagers from Fanalei village on Malaita Island captured and killed 700 dolphins after falling out with US conservation group, the Earth Island Institute.

Mr. Manetoali told Radio Australia on Thursday the government has to do a "fact-finding" mission to find out why the dolphins were slaughtered.

"The government has to send representatives to the villages and do awareness to the people as to the status of dolphins in the international level as well as in this country," Mr. Manetoali said. "Of course the government will have to step in one way or the other to resolve this issue."

He said it was "a very big question" as to whether the dispute affects tourism or not.

"That depends on which type of tourism or which tourists we are looking into," he said.

Mr. Manetoali's words come after calls from tourism operators for the government to step in.

Dive operator, Danny Kennedy, told Radio Australia on Wednesday the dispute was affecting tourism to the country and it was up to the government to end it.

"They should be looking to do something within the next few days, fly in somebody from the Ministry of Conservation, maybe the general manager of the Tourism Authority to go out there and talk to them and try to quell the slaughter," Mr. Kennedy said.

The dispute began over money the villagers say they were owed, in return for foregoing their annual hunt.

Another 300 animals have since been killed, with the villagers saying the slaughter will continue until they get their money.

The chairman of the village's representative association in Honiara, Atkin Fakaia, said the village and the Earth Island Institute are not talking yet.

"They have the negative attitude towards us for the slaughters over a week ago," he said.

The institute said it has provided all the money it promised but the Honiara-based villagers are not passing it on.

The kill has led to a stand-off in Fanalei, with the chief there criticizing it, and then being removed from his position for his words.

[PIR editor's note: Meanwhile, dolphin export company Marine Mammal Exports plans to support Fanalei, and company director Robert Satu says the harvesting is part of traditional Solomon Islands culture.]

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