18 Apr 2006

Tonga stay neutral on issue of whaling at this stage

8:12 pm on 18 April 2006

The secretary of fisheries in Tonga says people are in two minds about the merits of whaling in the kingdom.

The New Zealand government and the environmental group Greenpeace are urging Pacific nations to get involved in the International Whaling Commission to shore up the anti-whaling lobby in a bid to counter Japan's influence.

However Dr Sione Vailala Matoto says Tongans sit in the middle of the debate.

Dr Matoto says there are successful whale-watching ventures in the outer islands which would like to protect the mammals.

"There are people who like to encourage the whale-watching business and also there are quite a lot of local people as well who'd like to have some uses of whale meat in replacement of meat imported including mutton and things like that. Just for the domestic consumption not for commerical or export."

Dr Matoto says Tonga is not a member of the IWC and is hesitant to join because the issue has become too politicised.