Statement: Trade in live dolphins from the Solomon Islands to Mexico

For use of the media only;
not an official document.

Geneva, 30 July 2003


Trade in live dolphins from the Solomon Islands to Mexico

On 15 May 2003, the CITES Management Authority of Mexico requested advice from the CITES Secretariat in relation to two export permits that had been issued by the Ministry of Forests, Environment and Conservation in the Solomon Islands. These authorized the export of 120 specimens of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). This species is listed in Appendix II of the Convention, which means that it can be traded internationally if the provisions of Article IV of CITES are complied with, notably if the export is found to be non-detrimental to the survival of the species by a designated scientific authority.

The Solomon Islands is not a Party to the Convention. However, its government has previously advised the CITES Secretariat that its Ministry of Forests, Environment and Conservation is competent to issue documents comparable to those required by CITES. It has also designated a scientific institution capable of advising that an export is not detrimental to the survival of the species.

The Secretariat in its reply to the CITES Management Authority of Mexico noted that it had no information regarding the harvesting of dolphins in the Solomon Islands or how its government managed trade in the species. It also pointed out that there have been several cases of mortality in the shipment of dolphins in recent years and that trade in the species has attracted considerable criticism from international conservation and animal welfare organizations. The Secretariat noted that a considerable number of specimens were intended for trade and wished to be informed about the purpose of the trade.

The Secretariat, in view of the above, recommended that Mexico:

  1. seek confirmation from the Solomon Islands that the documents were authentic and valid;
  2. seek information regarding the non-detriment finding made by the authorities in the Solomon Islands and a finding that the animals would be legally obtained;
  3. seek confirmation that the transport would be conducted in a manner that would comply with either the IATA Regulations or the CITES guidelines on transport of live specimens; and
  4. because of the history of high mortality, confirm that the intended recipient(s) was (were) suitably equipped to house and care for such a large number of specimens (even though this would not normally be required for an Appendix-II species).

The Secretariat was of the opinion that until Mexico received further information from the Solomon Islands addressing the points raised by the Secretariat, the imports should not be allowed.

A copy of the Secretariat’s advice to Mexico was sent to the Solomon Islands.

The Secretariat understands that its advice was followed and that Mexico subsequently received from the Solomon Islands information addressing the points of concern. The Secretariat has asked Mexico for a copy of the Solomon Islands’ response and this is awaited. The Secretariat has also written to the Solomon Islands seeking additional information.
If evidence is received that the requirement of CITES have not been met, the Secretariat will not hesitate to recommend rejection of export permits issued by the Solomon Islands.

The Secretariat will continue to monitor this trade and is seeking additional information regarding aspects of it.
The Secretariat has encouraged the Solomon Islands on several occasions to accede to the Convention, which would facilitate more effective regulation of trade in wildlife from the country, and hopes that it will do so soon.