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?