Dolphins killed in pay spat

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Villagers claim institute stinted on money promised them for not killing the animals

The mass slaughter of the dolphins by hunters on Malaita Island has caused international condemnation and outrage. Photo / Solomon Star
The mass slaughter of the dolphins by hunters on Malaita Island has caused international condemnation and outrage. Photo / Solomon Star

Up to 900 dolphins have been killed by villagers in the Solomon Islands, who claim it was an act of retaliation for not being paid money they were promised.

The mass slaughter of the bottlenose dolphins has caused international condemnation and outrage. But those parties involved are putting the blame on each other; with villagers saying they were underpaid by the Earth Island Institute - an American-based group that works to conserve ecosystems around the world.

People from the village of Fanalei, on the island of Malaita, claim that the institute had made a deal to pay up to S$2.4 million ($400,000) to stop the killing of dolphins. However only S$700,000 had been received, villagers say.

The killing of dolphins is seen as a traditional practice on the island and provides meat and income for villagers. Dolphin teeth are also traditionally used to pay a bride's price.

In an interview with Radio Australia, Fanalei Honiara Association chairman Atkin Fakaia said villagers had acted in retaliation for underpayment.

"The issue of them going back fishing ... and killing dolphins was on the understanding that Earth Island has been reluctant to pay the agreed amount that was due to the community," he said. "So they just felt ... disappointed and dissatisfied over the attitude of Earth Island."

But institute director Lawrence Makili called the act "evil" and that it had put them off providing any more money to the village.

Mr Makili said the institute had kept its side of the bargain, by paying out the money in small grants to various groups within the community over two years. It had also helped set up a number of projects that would help generate money for the village, he said.

"Earth Island has stood this straight on the table ... [but] this one community thought that they would do whatever they want, in order for us to come back to the table.

"But I think I'm not coming back to the table because of the evil thing that they've done."

- NZ Herald

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