Jonah and the Whale at Pacific Islands Forum

Friday, October 12, 2007
Nuku'alofa, Tonga
Rugby icon Jonah Lomu has joined the fight against whaling by fronting a campaign to be launched at an event for 21 regional leaders, including Australian Prime Minister John Howard, attending the Pacific Island Leaders Forum in Nuku’alofa, Tonga on Monday 15 October.
In a move to show support from the highest levels of Tongan Society, the evening will be hosted by the Her Royal Highness, Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita, whose father, the Late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV courageously banned whaling in Tonga in 1978 and led the way to a thriving whale watching industry. 
 
The Jonah and the Whale campaign is in direct response to the Government of Japan’s intention to kill more than 1000 whales including 50 humpbacks as part of its so-called “scientific” whaling program in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, commencing this November. 
 
Jonah Lomu said humpback whales that are treasured both culturally and economically within the Pacific migrate from the Antarctic and will be at risk of being killed by Japanese whalers, which will damage an already fragile population and put a burgeoning whale watching industry at risk.
 
“We cannot afford to lose any more humpbacks, either in the Pacific, or in the Antarctic. That is why I am so passionate about this campaign, as I truly believe that this generation is the last hope for our humpback whales,” Mr Lomu said.
 
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) research, conducted in partnership with the Tongan Government, Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium showed that in 1978 the number of mature breeding female humpback whales migrating to Tonga was down to an estimate of only 15.
 
Whales are now a centerpiece of Tonga’s tourism industry and Tonga has continued to effectively conserve all cetaceans in its waters through national laws and the responsible actions taken by the Tongan Government to manage whale watching tourism.  
 
“Whale watching, particularly of humpback whales is an increasingly important industry for Pacific economies, and is worth an estimated US$21 million annually to the region, and growing. The protection of the humpback whale population is vital in ensuring sustainable development in the region,” said Mick McIntyre, Director IFAW Asia Pacific.
 
Event details:
The campaign will be launched at a cocktail function at the Dateline Hotel co-hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and campaign sponsor, IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org). The event will feature the release of an IFAW report on the economic benefits of whale watching in the Pacific region by IFAW Asia Pacific Director Mick McIntyre, and an address by renowned Tongan rugby player, Jonah Lomu.

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