Mexico Halts Importing of Solomons Dolphins

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August 22, 2003

Mexico has agreed not to import any further dolphins from the Solomon Islands after official approaches from New Zealand.

The New Zealand manager of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, Kimberly Muncaster, said Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff had written to her confirming Mexico's decision.

"As a result of our approach, Mexico has assured us that, in light of the new information it now has on the situation in the Solomon Islands, it would not, on scientific grounds, authorize further imports," the letter says.

Muncaster said the society was delighted by the change of heart.

"The captures and subsequent trade in dolphins from the Solomon Islands should never have taken place and we are calling on officials there to take immediate action to protect the welfare of these dolphins."

Mexico had launched an investigation into the shipment to Cancun of 28 dolphins, one of which died after arriving in the country.

Muncaster said the society remained concerned about the surviving 27 dolphins, as well as dozens being kept in shallow, overcrowded sea pens in the Solomons.

"Several have already died, food is scarce and locals have reported scratches and blisters on the marine mammals, caused as a result of the dolphins being unable to dive deep enough to avoid the sun's rays.

"[The society] is leading calls for authorities to intervene, stop the captures and return the animals to the wild."

Its efforts were complicated by fact that the industry was so lucrative - trained dolphins could fetch up to $30,000.

The Mexican Government's pledge was part of a position presented by Mexican representatives at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in Geneva, Switzerland, last week.

Mexico asked Cites to define procedures for ensuring the environmental soundness of imports from countries not signatories to the convention.

The growing popularity of seaside parks that allow tourists to swim with and touch dolphins is driving the trade in the marine mammals.

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