27 Feb 2020

Tonga curtails licensing for whale watching tour operators

9:15 am on 27 February 2020

Tonga has limited the number of whale watching and swimming licences it issues after a record number of applications.

Tourism minister 'Akosita Lavulavu said she believed restrictions were necessary as both a conservation measure and to preserve the country's whale industry.

Matangi Tonga reports that only seven licences have been issued for Tongatapu, 20 for Vava'u, 10 for Ha'apai, and four for 'Eua.

Recent research has found an increasing number of boats going near mother and baby whales was disturbing their natural patterns in a critical period of a baby whale's life.

Tonga is one of the few countries in the world where it is legal for people to swim with whales, although some conservationists are calling for an end to commercial swimming with whales operations.

This photograph taken on August 4, 2008 shows a humpback whale diving near the island of Vava'u in Tonga. Photo: DAVID BROOKS / AFP