Update on the Capture and Trade of Wild Dolphins in the Solomon Islands

Mexico's federal environmental agency confirmed Tuesday July 29th that one of 28 dolphins imported from the Solomon Islands to a Cancun Aquatic Park has died.

Despite an international outcry over the capture of at least 200 dolphins, an additional 8 dolphins have reportedly been captured this week. Local sources report that the dolphins are still being kept in shallow pens, and that some animals are suffering from injuries.

There are about 1,000 dolphins held in captivity worldwide, and in the opinion of HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan: "I've been working to help animals around the world for more than 30 years. This is the largest capture of dolphins for amusement parks that I am familiar with, representing 20% of all dolphins now held captive in concrete tanks."

The dolphins were captured and exported during a time of complete breakdown of civil society in the Solomon Islands calling into question who was in control of the government, and on whose authority the dolphin were caught and sold. The Government of Mexico, which accepted the shipment of dolphins, was fully aware of all of these facts, and in our opinion should never have allowed the dolphins into Mexico. The Government of Mexico should refuse all further shipments, and return the surviving 27 dolphins home at the expense of those who in our opinion, illegally captured, sold and exported them in the first place.

Although the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Secretariat in Geneva has now confirmed that it advised Mexico to allow the export of 120 bottlenose dolphins from the Solomon Islands, subject to certain requirements, it is now investigating whether this criteria was met after WSPA exposed the trade as unlawful. If the operation is found to be in violation of CITES requirements, CITES Secretariat will not hesitate to recommend rejection of export permits issued by the Solomon Islands.

CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) is the most important international wildlife treaty in the world and more information can be found here. Administered by the United Nations, Canada and 162 other nations are signatories. The Solomon Islands is not a signatory. However, in an effort to stem the abuse of this law, as a signatory nation, Mexico was obliged to follow the letter and spirit of the CITES treaty as if the Solomon Islands were in fact a signatory nation.