27 Nov 2007

Pacific countries reminded of value of whale watching as Japan prepares for latest hunt

2:39 pm on 27 November 2007

Pacific countries that support Japan's whale hunt are being told the mammals are worth more to their economies alive than dead.

Japan's whaling fleet is due to pass through the Pacific in a matter of days on its way to the Antarctic Ocean to kill up to a thousand whales.

The Chair of the New Zealand-based Tongan Advisory Council, Melino Maka, says whale-watching is a boon for Tonga's economy and other countries should follow its lead.

He says whale-watching earned Pacific Islands states a total of 21 million US dollars in the last financial year.

Mr Maka says the view that tiny Pacific countries risk losing Japanese aid if they oppose whaling is defeatist.

"That's a very short-view approach. Because whale-watching is the easiest thing for the Pacific to develop. And this is a point for New Zealand and Australia to help develop eco-tourism for the Pacific Islands that will become self-sustainable for the region, rather than relying on aid from bigger developed countries."

Melino Maka says the Tongan Advisory Council will be helping teach people from the Pacific how to run their own whale watching operations from next year.