TONGAN STUDENTS JOIN

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GREENPEACE PACIFIC Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS RELEASE Adelaide, Australia/Suva, Fiji July 3, 2000

GLOBAL "KIDS FOR WHALES" CAMPAIGN

"Love whales as you love yourself"- that is the message Tongan student Estrellita Fulivai is taking to the International Whaling Commission meeting in Adelaide, Australia.

Seventeen-year old Estrellita and schoolmate, 15-year-old Sela Pohiva Havaii from Vava’u High School, are part of an international children’s delegation calling for the establishment of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary in Adelaide today.

Estrellita and Sela have joined children from Germany, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland and Russia to present the Chairman of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) with postcards calling for an end to the hunting of whales, and establishment of the regional sanctuary.

Estrellita and Sela have been learning about whales by observing the successful whale watching operation in the Vava’u group of islands in the north of Tonga. Their class has seen first-hand the economic benefits whale conservation is bringing to the small community of Vava’u. Whales are now part of their geography, biology and economics lessons.

In 1978 the King of Tonga decreed an end to whaling in Tongan waters. Now whales have recovered to a level that can support a small but successful industry that generates over a million Tongan dollars every year.

"The presence of Estrellita and Sela in Adelaide is a reminder to delegates at the IWC meeting that the vast majority of people and institutions of the South Pacific support the establishment of the proposed Sanctuary. The South Pacific Island Forum, South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme and South Pacific Tourism Organization have all gone on record with their support, and the rest of the world should respect that," said Greenpeace campaigner Sakiusa Qereqeretabua.

The South Pacific Forum, made up of 14 island nations, backed the development of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary Proposal by Australia and New Zealand two years ago. The South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme also supports the proposed sanctuary on the grounds that whale numbers in regional waters are a fraction of what they were before commercial whaling began, and because it is a logical extension to the existing Southern Ocean Sanctuary. The South Pacific Tourism Organization also backs the sanctuary, saying the potential for whale-watching tourism in the South Pacific is enormous.

"Tongan participation in Kids for Whales is a further symbol of the urgent need to stop commercial whaling. Estrellita and Sela represent more than 100,000 children around the world calling for global protection of whales," said Qereqeretabua.

The South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal will be put to the vote at the IWC Tuesday, July 4th.

For more information: Sakiusa Qereqeretabua – Greenpeace Pacific oceans campaigner on ++61 415 411 719 or mobile 0415 411 719 within Australia

 

KIDS FOR WHALES

Monday, July 3, 2000 an international children’s delegation of 13 youth from Tonga, Slovakia, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Russia and Germany will hand over more than 100,000 postcards to Mr. Michael Canny, chair of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) during the 52nd IWC-meeting in Adelaide/Australia.

The postcards represent more than 100,000 young people worldwide who were involved in the Greenpeace youth project "Kids for Whales!" The delegation will present a huge whale-shaped postcard to Mr Michael Canny, with their requests written on it: The establishment of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary is a big step toward a global whale sanctuary. It is a crucial element in hopes for a worldwide ban on whaling, the continuation of bans on the trade of whale-meat and the protection of the oceans from over fishing and pollution. The young delegates also hope for stricter controls and the enforcement of consequences for countries ignoring the ban.

"We children are the future. That is why it is important to do something for the future now and not leave it all up to the adults. The aim of the Kids-for-Whales project is to protect the whales so they’ll live into the future," said Matthias Stucki, one of the Swiss kids, 16 years old.

What is Kids for Whales?

Kids for Whales is a Greenpeace project for young people around the world. It began in November 1999 - the beginning of the Japan’s last year’s whaling season. Especially for children, whales are a symbol of the sea as a habitat. The fact that whales are still hunted is cause for outrage and protest from young people in many countries. Kids for Whales! provides kids and teenagers with their a means to protest against whaling and express their wish for global protection.

Since November 1999 more than 100,000 children from 16 different countries have called for the protection of these mammals. They come from Austria, Slovakia, Russia, Luxembourg, Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, Mexico, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Czech, Hungary and Turkey. As a symbol for "Hands off the Whales" the youth made their handprints on postcards and wrote their wishes for the whales on them. One thousand banners were painted, expressing the children’s feelings and fears.

During the year, the young environmentalists carried out special activities to attract public attention to the IWC 52 in Adelaide, Australia. For example, in Russia, two museums are showing exhibitions of hundreds of whale-paintings and poems by students. In Vienna (Austria), more than 60 youth created a huge whale symbol, made out of 25,000 Austrian postcards collected by Greenteams. A 70 meter (231 foot) long painted whale banner was made by young people in Brazil. In Germany young activists collected handprints of more than 80 members of the Parliament and persuaded the Minister of Environment to announce publicly that the German government will actively support a global whale sanctuary.

The worldwide collection of postcards culminated in a weeklong trip of 13 young people as an international youth delegation to Australia. The young people would like to talk to national IWC delegates to present the wishes and marks of protest by children and young people worldwide against whaling.

For further information contact: Dietmar Kress, Greenpeace Kids for Whales (in Adelaide), ph: 0418-420 112 Ralf Sonntag, Greenpeace International Delegation (in Adelaide), ph: 0407-742 025

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