NUKU’ALOFA-February 17: 3.50pm (MEIDECC): The first meeting of the Whales in a Changing Ocean Conference Working Committee was held this morning at the Tanoa Dateline International Hotel here in Nuku’alofa, in preparation for the April 4-6 event to be hosted by Tonga.
Committee Chairman Paula Ma’u led the deliberations and discussions, with the committee membership including reps from the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC), Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries (MAFFF) and the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources.
Former Tourism Director and Auckland Institute of Studies’ Mr Semisi Taumoepeau briefed the committee on the programme and the aim of the planned conference – the first of its kind for the region.
The Government of Tonga, the Government of New Zealand, the Auckland Institute of Studies, the Okeanos Foundation, the European Union (through SPC and the INTEGRE project), the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Vava’u Environment Protection Association (VEPA) are partnering with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in hosting this event.
SPREP had declared 2016/2017 the “Year of the Whale”.
Tonga is a favourite breeding ground for Humpback Whales, with whale watching now part of the annual Tourism Calendar annually.