Sustainable use of whales in Tonga: The lesser of two evils?

Professor Mark Orams, New Zealand Tourism Research Institute

The Kingdom of Tonga was engaged in whaling until 1978. Many Tongans still
remember with some fondness the eating of whale meat and there is significant
pressure (supported by the World Council of Whalers) for Tonga to resume whaling.
Those in favour of such a resumption point out that many Tongans have a significant
obesity problem and that whale blubber and meat is a much healthier alternative to
meat and fat (from cattle, pigs and sheep) which currently predominate in Tongan
diets. They also argue that whales can be harvested sustainably and that this is a
legitimate use of this resource. An opposing argument is that whales are a significant
resource for tourism and that this use is inherently more sustainable. However, there
is a growing body of research that shows that whale watching and swimming with
whales is not benign and that significant long-term detrimental impacts can occur.
Decisions about the 'use' of whales in Tongan waters is further complicated by
cultural, political and ethical perspectives. Thus, whales and Tonga present an
interesting case study where a variety of competing perspectives related to principals
of sustainable use are being played out.

Delivered as part of the Sustainability Research Cluster ‘Snapshots’ Presentations, Monday 10 August 2009. WF710

Publication Date: 
Tue, 08/11/2009 (All day)
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