In honour of the Tongan Royal Family’s commitment to protecting whales, Her Royal Highness Princess Salote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tuita was officially declared the Royal Patron of Whales in the Kingdom of Tonga today at an event hosted by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), the Tonga Visitors Bureau, Vava’u Tourism Association and the Tonga Whale Watching Operators Association.
“Tonga is a world leader in whale conservation. Decades of commercial whaling took a severe toll on whale populations across the Pacific. In a demonstration of true leadership King Tupou IV took action,” said Erica Martin, Director IFAW Asia Pacific.
“Today the torch has been passed from father to daughter - from a great King to a beloved Princess. A Princess devoted not only to the people of Tonga but to the whales that have such an important place in their hearts,” Ms Martin said.
“HRH Princess Pilolevu will be a powerful spokesperson for the protection of endangered whales in Tonga and the Pacific region and will help promote Tonga’s whale watching industry which directly benefits tourism in Tonga,” said Lolesio Lui, President of the Vava’u Tourism Association.
“Having such a significant and influential voice speaking on behalf of the whales will help ensure we protect whales and the benefits they bring to the region,” President of the Tonga Whale Watching Operators Association, Allan Bowe, said.
Tonga has one of the fastest growing whale watching industries in the world, which is expanding at a staggering rate of 22 per cent and injecting more than US$2 million (Pa’anga $4 million) into the Tongan economy each year.
Whales and dolphins are ecologically, culturally and economically important in Tonga and the wider Pacific. However, whales are not saved. Today they face many threats including climate change, bycatch in fisheries and whaling.
Tonga’s continuing leadership in whale conservation gives true cause for celebration.
The event was held in Vava’u and was attended by national and local government representatives, community leaders, whale watching operators and the local community.