28 Sep 2012

Warning over whale watch licences in Tonga

9:52 am on 28 September 2012

The owner of Tonga's first whale watch operation is warning that issuing more licences will be detrimental for the whales.

The comment follows an announcement from the Ministry of Commerce, Tourism and Labour that it has issued 24 licences, mainly to operators in the Vava'u group of islands, for this year's June to October season, up from 20 last season.

Allan Bowe, who owns Whale Watch Vava'u and says he pioneered the activity in Tonga, wants to see a cap on the number of licences issued to limit the number of boats on the water.

He says the growing number of Tongan operators, for whom it is culturally incorrect to refuse, may be pressured by the sort of tourists he describes as pushy palagis.

"A lot of the boats are skippered by Tongan boys, they're totally Tongan crewed and you get the tourists putting pressure on them to put people in the water and you know they possibly will overstep the mark in terms of regulations of how we behave and I don't think that would be positive for the industry."