First Regional Conference on Whales underway in Nuku’alofa
Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 04/04/2017
“All of Tonga’s waters remain a whale sanctuary and Tonga will continue to protect our whales.”
Acting Prime Minister – Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni made the comment while opening the first Regional Conference in Nuku’alofa this morning, focusing on “Whales in a Changing Ocean”
He said Tonga continues to be in the forefront to protect the whales in the Pacific Ocean as Tonga’s waters are popular for humpback whales.
Activities with whales such as whale watching have injected millions to Tonga over the years and many tourists are visiting the kingdom to swim with the whales.
“Whales are ecologically, culturally and economically important for Tonga and the wider Pacific. However whales are not safe, today they face many threats such as climate change, bi-catching fisheries and whaling. Over the years Tonga has been working closely with our regional partners who provide the scientific research advisory capacity towards the conservation of the mammals and their habitat in the Pacific Region. It is very appropriate and fitting and we should be reminded of our changing Pacific Ocean, Our Changing environment and of cause, our changing climate. I would wish to reaffirm that all Tongan waters is declared a sanctuary for whales. The ban against the hunting and killing of whales in Tonga’s waters remain enforced additionally the Kingdom of Tonga will be severe with its commitment to provide sanctuary and protection of whales”
Minister of Tourism – Hon. Semisi Sika says, All Pacific Nations should now move to save, conserve and protect our whales for future generations.
“Tonga is committed not only to protecting whales while they are on our waters but to support our regional commitment of hope that even in thee changing ocean, the people of the Pacific will play their part in ensuring the generations are not in denial the opportunity to see this magnificent animal in our waters.”
Director General of SPREP – Kosi Latu said this is a great opportunity to review and to form action plans to tackle the threats faced by whales and to protect our ocean as the population of whales is recovering well since the ban on whaling put in place in 1978.
“Whales populations are now slowly recovering, none more so than here in Tonga itself. Since King Tupou 4th decreed to halt subsistent whaling in Tonga in 1978. The population of humpback whale in Tonga in every winter has grown from an estimated 50 to over 3000. It’s an increase, small increase but never the less an increase. It is therefore in my view one of world’s great conservation success stories. Much work has to be done. With the population recovering, comes economic opportunities not only for Tonga but for many Pacific Island Countries in a form of whale watching”
The three day conference is attended by Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister – Fiamee Mata’afa, Minister of Environment from Cook Islands, Cabinet ministers, head of government ministries, members of the diplomatic corps and distinguished guests.
© Radio and Television Tonga News