Subject: Info: Tonga to begin Whaling??

Michael Williamson (whe_william)
Mon, 21 May 1995 21:19:28

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From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
Subject: Info:  Tonga to begin Whaling??
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20-May-95 02:23 pm Regular  International
   Auckland, May 20 AFP - The Tongan cabinet is considering a
proposal to allow commercial whaling in its waters, a regional
environmental official said today.
   South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) project
officer Sue Miller said the proposal involved taking 50 humpback,
200 sperm and 100 minke whales annually.
   She told AFP from SPREP headquarters in Western Samoa capital
Apia that her organisation had been called on to advise the Tongan
cabinet. Her report had been submitted to cabinet which was now
discussing it.
   The government-owned Tonga Chronicle published parts of Miller's
submission in its latest edition, naming the backer of the scheme as
a Tasi Afeaki, a Tongan now living in Japan.
   But the Chronicle said the scheme was opposed by the Ministry of
Land, Survey and Natural Resources.
   Miller said Afeaki's proposal was extensive and involved a large
whale chasing boat and processing facilities for the meat.
   ``He is most definitely for real,'' she said, adding that Afeaki
had extensively lobbied government officials to take up the
   Afeaki was advocating the use of whale-meat locally, but Miller
noted whale-meat in Japan sold for around $US200 ($NZ305.11) a
kilogram, far more than what anybody in Tonga could afford.
   In her report she said that aside from being emotive, Afeaki's
proposal involved taking three types of whales which existed in
limited numbers.
   The humpback is protected by the International Whaling Commission
(IWC), which is to meet in Dublin next week, because their numbers
stand at less than 10 percent of the numbers believed to have
existed in pre-whaling days.
   Tonga is not a member of the IWC.
   According to Miller, hunting 50 humpbacks a year was ``in excess
of any form of sustainable take.''
   She also questioned the proposal to take 200 sperm whales, noting
the animal had never been hunted for its meat, only its oil, and was
generally not considered edible.
   As for minke whales, Miller said she doubted there were any in
Tongan waters.
   Whale-watching in Tonga's northern 34 islands of Vava'u is
beginning to be a major tourist attraction for the kingdom.
   Every year for three months beginning around June humpback whales
arrive from Antarctica and stay around Vava'u where they are
believed to calf and mate.
   The Tonga Trench, one of the world's deepest points, passes near
Vava'u and makes it attractive for the whales. At some places near
Vava'u, the ocean is already up to 60 metres deep just 10 metres
from the shore.
   Miller said in her report to cabinet that the whale-watching
operation would come to an end with hunting because ``whaling and
whale-watching do not go hand in hand.''
   To accept Afeaki's proposal would also adversely affect the
tourism industry as tourists are choosing destinations that are
``environmentally friendly,'' her report said.
   Tongans used to hunt and kill whales, taking around 10 humpbacks
a year, but the practise was stopped by decree of King Taufa'ahau
Tupou IV in 1979.
AFP dj