Tourism Minister ‘Akosita Lavulavu Minister’s Order has been published in the Tonga Government Gazette, effective Tuesday, 25 February 2020.
The Order was approved by Cabinet, and exercises powers conferred on the Minister of Tourism by the Whale Watching and Swimming Regulations.
The ministry had received a record number of applications from both local and overseas operators applying for a licence to conduct whale watching and swimming activities in all the island groups of Tonga.
According to the ministry, the Order was deemed necessary by the Minister in order to limit the number of whale watching and swimming licences.
This was done for the management, protection and conservation of the whales.
It was also necessary in order to sustain the economic viability of the whale watching and whale swimming industry in the Kingdom of Tonga.
The ministry said over the year, it has received calls to limit the activity, not just from scientists and researchers, but also from traditional leaders, from operators, and from the tourists themselves.
It is believed that the increased activity in the past years has had an effect on the whales in their annual migration to the Kingdom’s waters for the birthing of their calves.