Illicit Dolphin Import to Panama
Panama joined other Caribbean nations last week in adopting a Marine Mammal Action Plan at the 5th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to...
Panama joined other Caribbean nations last week in adopting a Marine Mammal Action Plan at the 5th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the United Nations Environment Program’s Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife in the Wider Caribbean Region, held in St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda.
Panama ratified the Protocol in 1996 and under it has an obligation to protect marine mammals from taking, possessed, killed, traded and disturbed. The Plan, adopted in Antigua, provides a road map of actions devised to assist in the conservation of marine mammals in the Wider Caribbean region.
The passage of the Plan comes at a time when rumors have re-emerged about a scheme to import wild-caught dolphins from the Solomon Islands into Panama. Although confirmation of the rumor has not been received, it is believed that an import permit for an unknown number of dolphins has been provided to the Panamanian authorities by a Solomon Islands veterinarian.
“It is inconceivable that Panama would allow the import of illegally caught dolphins when it is working so hard to protect and conserve dolphins and other marine mammals,” said Susan Millward, Executive Director of the Animal Welfare Institute, who recently returned from the Antigua meeting.
Panama is also a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora which governs the international trade in dolphins. CITES has been called on numerous times to halt exports of dolphins from the Solomon Islands since these captures and exports are very controversial.
As well as being brutal, the removals may be jeopardizing the survival of the species in that region. Marine mammal scientists from around the world gathered in August under the auspices of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to discuss the issue and concluded that live captures should cease because there is currently insufficient data available on the numbers of dolphins in Solomon Islands’ waters, thus potentially jeopardizing the wild dolphin populations.
“If Panama allows any dolphins from the Solomon Islands to enter the country, it will be contravening international law and the United Nations SPAW Protocol,” said Celma Moncada of Fundacion Humanitas of Panama.
“The Panamanian people should be proud of the work of its government as a regional leader in environmental conservation. To allow such a controversial import to go ahead would threaten this enviable reputation” she added.
Panama is an international destination for tourists to experience that country’s wild places and beaches. There is no reason why Panama needs to take on this headache of importing a few live dolphins for the benefit of international dolphin traffickers who have virtually taken over the Solomon Islands. Hopefully, the Fisheries and other Departments of the Panama government reject any bogus permits for dolphin imports and reaffirm Panama’s strong support for the protection of wild dolphins.
Recently plans to open a sea water park in San Carlos was rejected by the government, after the promoters received severe criticisms from environmentalist organizations, that opposed the project from the beginning on the grounds that it would be inhuman to catch wild dolphins and putting them in aquariums. It was also planning to export them.
In August the company closed their operations altogether, but it is not known what they are planning to do with the land it purchase to construct the park.