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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Transcript - Radio Interview
Friday, 18 July 2003
Australian troops will very soon arrive in the Solomons to establish law and order in that troubled country. But as a sidelight to what is happening to the population of the Solomons there is also an environmental issue. There are a number of dolphins who have been captured and sold on the international market and are heading off to Mexico. You might say: so what, with all this trouble and suffering in the world?
But I think that we should never turn out back on the other issues that can sometimes be ignored, or animals, or people, or the environment that can come unstuck or into conflict because of what is going on in the country itself. I hope you understand what I meant by that, I knew entirely what I was saying.
These dolphins have been sold for about $400 a head mostly to aqua parks in Mexico and our Environment Minister Doctor David Kemp has gone into bat for them and is trying to see if there's something we can do to prevent the sale or to make sure that these dolphins are well cared for, and I applaud him for that. He joins me on the program now. Good morning, Doctor, thanks very much for your time this morning.
David Kemp:It's a great pleasure, Tricia.
I hope I explained in some way what the story was. [laughs] It was a bit of a waffly one. But basically you're going in to see if you can do something about these dolphins.
That's right. As you say, there are a lot of concerns in the world but we can't turn our back on creatures, particularly creatures as intelligent as dolphins. We want to see them well treated. Obviously we're very concerned about the general law and order situation in the Solomons and it may well be that this report in fact is a symptom of the problem that's arisen in the Solomons because the report, as you said, mentioned that some 200 wild dolphins have been taken out of the water. They've been paid by a Mexican consortium for these dolphins so they can be put on display in Mexico.
The claim has been made that this has been done in a very cruel way and that many of these dolphins have suffered quite a lot in this round-up. The claim has been that they've been netted and dragged out of the water and dumped in the floor of open boats and so forth.
This is obviously a matter of concern and the first thing that I did here as to ask our mission in Mexico to make urgent representations to the Mexican Government and find out just what the situation was there, because it is possible that this action was in breach of the International Convention in the Trade in Endangered Species.
We have had some information overnight from Mexico that in fact the Mexican Government did issue permits for the importation of these dolphins. What this means we still have to further explore with Mexico because I'm sure that the Mexican Government, no more than us, would want to see dolphins ill-treated and they wouldn't support any illegal action. In fact Mexico has been one of our closest partners in the campaign against commercial whaling and they were very supportive at the recent convention in Berlin where Japan was asked to desist from its scientific whaling.
We have a good relationship with Mexico and I think what we now need to do is to explore further with the Mexican Government what their understanding is of the basis on which these permits were issued, and then the other thing that we need to do is to seek to confirm the information that we've got from the Solomons. As you mentioned earlier, Australia will be very active up there and we'll be in a better position, I hope within the next few days, to determine what exactly has happened at the Solomons end.
Yes. I can imagine with things going awry in the Solomons that people aren't paying much attention to detail so the capture of these dolphins, as you say, could be going on quite brutally and people are otherwise preoccupied. But also that there are some people who need money in the Solomons. I mean it's a pretty poor country and selling dolphins on the international market to them would be a very lucrative thing. I suspect that these people won't gladly sort of go back on that deal if it means that they've - I don't know, $400 a head for these dolphins. That's a lot of money in the Solomons. How do you get around that?
I think that could well be right. I've noticed in conversations that I had with the Solomon Islands delegate at the International Whaling Commission that he was aware of the fact that fishermen in the Solomons were actually capturing dolphins to eat and he, I think, was not able to tell me clearly what the basis of this was. I think he implied to me that it was perhaps a traditional practice in the Solomons, but I can't confirm that.
The next step that I would want to take here is to see what our mission in the Solomons can tell us about the situation and what the context of Solomon Island law is that is there to be enforced.
I suppose we're in a very good position, aren't we, if we've got people on the ground there, this advance group that's going over there to begin with, to at least have a first hand look at what's going on and to play a part in it. I think that's a really good thing.
That's right. I think Australia has got an opportunity here to see this close up and to determine exactly what is happening and to make sure that the law is observed.
Doctor, well done on getting involved in it. As I say, it is a really good thing. We'd like to speak to you again about it, perhaps when there's a resolution to it or we know a bit more detail about exactly what has happened. I thank you very much for your time on the program this morning.
Thanks very much, Tricia. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.
Doctor David Kemp, Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage.