25 Aug 2015

Whale-watching industry puts Tonga on world map

9:17 am on 25 August 2015

A local tourism operator in Tonga says the whale-watching industry is a thriving business that has exposed Tonga to the world.

Tonga has been listed among the world's best sites for responsible whale watching by the Whale Heritage Sites initiative.

Allan Bowe, Tonga's first licensed whale watching operator and who pioneered the industry in Tonga in 1993, says he's delighted at the announcement.

Humpback whale

Photo: SPREP

Mr Bowe says most whale-watching operators provide employment in the villages by hiring Tongan skippers and crews.

He says the industry not only helps support whale conservation in Tonga but it has also become a big contributor to the local economy.

"When I first came here there was nothing about whales. There weren't any carvings, T-shirts, nothing. Now there's a whole souvenir industry so that's providing employment and money for the Carvers and Artists here. All the markets are doing well out of it. So you know, it's a healthy industry for the community."