TONGAN FISHERMEN FEARS INCREASING WHALE POPULATION MAY RULE OCEAN

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By Katalina Uili Tohi

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (July 28, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)---The whale watching business will definitely bloom if a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific Ocean is established.

At the same time, however, there is increasing concern among Tonga’s long line fishermen of the dangers and threats posed by the increasing number of huge whales to their lives as small boat fishermen in the kingdom.

The concern was aired this week by fisherman Matavai Fonua, who said that while out at sea in a long line fishing boat you could hear the whales thrashing nearby, sometimes just 10 meters (33 feet) or so from the boat’s side.

Sometimes, he noted, they see groups of whales, up to ten times a day and as many as 40 a day in deep sea areas of Tonga.

The number of whales is increasing in Tongan waters compared to previous years, he said.

Fanua said this may be good for the whale watching business in Vava’u and now for ‘Eua island, but the threat and danger posed by whales to small boat fishermen in these areas is something to be considered.

Whale meat steamed or cooked in coconut cream is considered a top delicacy in Tonga, especially for the olden generation. That was when whale meat was ready available and whaling was not prohibited.

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