Study Urges Protection For Whales In Tonga

According to a new International Fund for Animal Welfare report announced today, whale watching plays a major role in attracting tourists to the Kingdom of Tonga. The report shows that whales continue to contribute strongly to the country’s economy, with whale watching tourism generating almost US$2 million annually and increasing at a rate of 20 percent a year.

The research commissioned by IFAW and Opération Cétacés found humpback whales bring significant economic benefits to Tonga,  where 15 percent of GDP is earned through tourism and recommends that whales need to be protected and conserved.

Since hunting was banned by royal decree in 1978 The Kingdom of
Tonga has become an important breeding ground for whales. Since the
whales were protected, the whale watch industry has grown strongly with
many tourism operators taking visitors to see these iconic species in
their natural environment.

The report shows that in 2006 alone more than 9,800 people went on
whale watching trips, representing an increase of 20 percent annually
since 1998.

IFAW Pacific Officer, Olive Andrews, said “These important whales
form the basis of the thriving whale watching industry in the region
and are widely revered throhout the Kingdom of Tonga. Whales are
clearly worth far more alive than dead.”

“Responsible whale and dolphin watching is a win-win solution for
whales and people in Tonga, and has the potential to provide important
economic opportunities to the people who live there” she continued.
The
report was officially launched at Tonga’s Tofua Day (National Whale
Festival) taking place in Vava’u today. The festival coincides with the
whales’ return to Tongan waters after spending the summer in their
feeding grounds in the Antarctic and is a day of celebration with
music, presentations of school art projects and dance groups. 

Ecolarge, an independent economic research and consulting firm based
in Sydney, Australia, prepared the report supported by IFAW, Opération
Cétacés (a marine mammal research organization based in New Caledonia),
Government of Tonga, SPREP (South Pacific Regional Environment Program)
and funding from FFEM (Fonds Français pour l'Environnement Mondial).

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