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Whale Watching Brings Millions To Pacific

UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL 2 APRIL 2008 (NZ)


Whale Watching Brings Millions To Pacific – New Report

(Auckland, NZ – 2 April 2008) - Whale and dolphin watching is one of the fastest growing industries in the Pacific Island region. According to a new IFAW report released today at the opening of the first meeting of Pacific Island region whale watching industry leaders, the industry is growing at 45 per cent and worth US$21 million annually to the region.

The report was officially released by Melino Maka, Director of the Tongan Advisory Council, before delegates from ten Pacific Island countries and territories at the opening of the workshop.

“There is no argument that whales are widely revered throughout the Pacific Islands region. They are an integral part of the heritage of many nations and the spectacular growth of the whale watching industry makes them an important part of the future,” Mr Maka said.

The independent report shows that between 1998-2005 the region’s whale watching activities increased 45 percent each year, with a total of 110,716 whale watchers in 2005 alone. Established whale watching industries in Tonga and New Caledonia have continued to grow. The report also found that the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Guam experienced the strongest annual average growth rates; and that new whale watching operations have emerged recently in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands.

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) Pacific Officer, Olive Andrews, said that the socio-economic benefits from this industry have the potential to transform lives and nations.

“Whales are worth far more alive than dead. Responsible whale and dolphin watching is a win-win solution for whales and people in the Pacific Islands Region, and has the potential to provide important economic opportunities to coastal communities,” Ms Andrews said.

The three day Pacific Islands Working Group on Whale and Dolphin Watching workshop is being conducted by IFAW, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Operation Cétacés with support from the Australian Government and Fonds Francais Environment Mondial. The workshop brings governments and whale watching industry representatives together to develop region wide whale watching guidelines to minimize potential impacts on the animals and maximize the educational value.

Ecolarge, an independent economic research and consulting firm based in Sydney, Australia, prepared the report; which was supported by IFAW, SPREP, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, and the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium.

ends

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