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Whales - Do the maths!

Do the maths!

The last time whale hunting went before the Tongan cabinet in the mid-1990s the proposal was to kill 10 humpbacks a year. Now, do the maths... 10 humpbacks at roughly10,000 kilos per animal works out to 100,000 kilos per year. The population of Tonga is just over 100,000 people. This means that every Tongan man, woman and child would receive less than one kilo of meat per year. For an obese nation – as you call us – that’s hardly enough for morning tea.

The far-sighted decision in 1978 by the King of Tonga to ban whaling not only saved humpback whales from local extinction, but 30 years later has also provided an enormous economic benefit.

A 2006 report by the Melbourne consultancy, Economist at Large, found that over the past decade, whale-watching and its associated revenues have been growing in Tonga by over 12% per annum. Whale-watch revenues have transformed the economy of the northern island group of Vava’u.

The argument that whale watching and whaling can co-exist is just another fisherman’s pipedream. Look at what happened this year in Iceland. The official story was that the Icelandic whalers couldn’t find a market for whale meat because of its toxicity. They didn’t mention the international backlash that saw tourism to Iceland drop dramatically, the diplomatic protest signed by 25 nations, including NZ, or how the issue divided the country.

Comparisons with the co-existence of whale-watching and whaling in Japan and Norway are equally spurious. Both countries have long-established commercial whaling industries, whereas whale-watching has only developed in a limited way in recent years, and there is considerable tension between whalers and whale-watchers.

Because the great majority of people who travel to Tonga to watch whales are pro-conservation, there is little doubt that a resumption of whaling would have a catastrophic impact on the tourist industry. Potential visitors would simply go somewhere else to see whales.

Finally, the most recent scientific evidence suggests that Tongan humpback whales are at only 10-15% of their original abundance last century. This summer Japanese whalers are heading to the humpbacks’ Antarctic feeding grounds in the protected waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to kill up to 50 of these animals. Any local whaling would further jeopardise the Pacific humpback’s current slow recovery, as well as the booming economic benefit for Tonga.


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