Dolphins pay the cost of a failed conservation project

By March 4, 2013 Ocean News

It is a tradition in the Solomon Islands to hunt dolphins, in order to sell their teeth and meat. They even use the teeth as currency. It is really important for the local economy, so if people want the dolphin hunt to stop in this area the they need another way of making a living. In an effort to stop the dolphin hunting the International Marine Mammal Project, a project of Earth Island Institute (EII), struck a deal with the villagers of Fanalei in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This two-year MOU stated that the EII would give $2.4 million to them if they stop the killing, preventing the death of about 2,000 dolphins a year. It expired last April, and, according to the Fanalei Association chairman Fakaia, they only gave the locals $700,000.


In protest, last January a group of locals killed almost 1000 dolphins, 700 on the 21st and 300 more on the 24th. Atkin Fakaia, a community leader, says the hunt was because of the failed payment from EII, but the EII says that this is a action done by an isolated group of Fanalei villagers. They say that most of the people they helped are furious with the hunters, even the Fanalei chief, Filei, who said that this group only cared about the agreement when the money started to come to the people.

But locals don’t trust Filei, as they said that Filei doesn’t consult the people before dealing with EII. The project’s regional director Lawrence Makili blamed the Fanalei Association for misusing the money (more than $400,000) the project gave to them in 2011. So this caused a change in the project, EII agreed to give money to individual families rather than authorities or organizations, but the EII stopped payments because the hunting didn’t stop.

Ok, I know it can be a little bit confusing, so I’ll summarize it. On one hand, we have the Fanalei Association blaming the EII for not paying the money they promised, so they killed the dolphins to survive. On the other hand we have the EII blaming the Association for misusing the money, so they had to cut the funding. The EII deals directly with Filei, but it seems that the community doesn’t think of him as their leader. Maybe, the solution could be to deal with the Association, as it seems that villagers think that they really care about locals.

These types of events are sad because in the end it is a 100 dolphins who ultimately pay the price. Politics and money will always precede any conservation project.

Do you agree with this project, i.e. pay hunters to stop from hunting? What other types of projects/programs do you think could be developed that would help the situation?

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Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • senona cesar says:

    shift from traditional and cultural way of leaving takes time,,,,in the Philippine scenario, dolphin/whale watching was introduced and developed, the more sustainable income attracted many locals to join the tourism industry….

  • JewelNature says:

    Put SANCTIONS on the Solomon Islands until they stop this cruel slaughter – killing dolphins in revenge for not satisfying their greed for ca$h just makes them more disgusting to the rest of the world.

  • Chris Bone says:

    Paying money like this to stop people killing Dolphins is not a good idea in my opinion. This money should have gone into community awareness and alternative livelihood programs. Frankly I find it very frustrating to hear of this waste. The community must chose to stop killing Dolphins.
    The model we use achieves long term solutions at a fraction of the price.

  • Dan Mombourquette says:

    Just a few questions:

    – is the dolphin cull sustainable?
    – if not is there a way to make it sustainable?
    – are there any underutilized fisheries that can be further developed to aid in a transition away from the dolphin cull?
    – are their training opportunities for locals to transition into other industries to increase social resilience?



  • Andy says:

    In some cases subsidies can be useful, but the agreements goals must be monitored and promises must be kept. Better that the money be put to an education for sustainable development and projects that would give the community an alternative source of sustainable income that is not detrimental to the environment. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life…

  • Eduardo Lugo says:

    Ecotourism could be the solution for them to bring people to see and swim with the dolphins, which works in many places, such as Puerto Vallarta Mexico can see it on our website

  • Great article and you summarize it right. As somebody that was part of the dolphin story of Solomons I respect that you highlight this important topic. Politics never should get involved with the projects. If the people funding were genuine, they would not simply handed money over. They would of lived and worked with the people as I had for a decade. Tillikum made me realize captive sacrifice is no longer justifiable if change for wild populations does not occur. Your story is a highlight of a hugely missed opportunity to put animals first.

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