14 received Restricted Skipper Master Class 5 certificates

Swimming with the whales in Vava’u. Photo: Annah Evington with WhaleSwim Adventures

Nuku’alofa – July 16, 2020: 1.30pm (Tourism Tonga): A total of 14 locals have been awarded with the Certified Restricted Skipper Master Class 5 certificates in whale watching, as part of a training organised by the Ministry of Tourism here in Nuku’alofa.

The 14 were awarded at a certificate presentation ceremony held at Lata’anga, on July 15, to mark the end of the 2-week Whale Watching Guide training, which consisted of five components of Whale Watching and Swimming Regulations 2013.

This included First Aid at Sea, Marine Biology of the Whales, Interpretive Guiding and Swimming component.

Minister of Tourism Hon Akosita Lavulavu (sitting middle) with CEO Sione Finau Moala Mafi (white shirt in front) and course participants and facilitators at the Tourism Office on July 15. Photo: Ministry of Tourism

Certificates were presented by the Minister of Tourism, Hon. ‘Akosita Havili Lavulavu.

Hon Lavulavu stressed the importance of whale watching and swimming with whales in the Kingdom as a critical part of the local tourism industry and the local economy.

Whale hunting was banned by His Majesty King Tau’fa’ahau Tupou IV in 1978 and the popularity of the whale watching program can be attributed to His Majesty’s vision of its importance to the tourism industry.

Protection of these majestic mammals have seen the migration of whales between Antarctica and the South Pacific Ocean from June to October attracting an estimated 10,000+ visitors to the Kingdom each year.

The Chief Executive Officer for Tourism, Mr Sione Finau Moala-Mafi said while public safety is paramount, we also have to consider the importance of protecting and respecting the whales to remain a sustainable activity. 

Hon Lavulavu hands over certificate to a participant on July 15 at the Tourism office. Photo: Ministry of Tourism.

Whale watching operators are required to complete this training to fulfill the mandate for a license to operate by the Industry Empowerment Division.

The Ministry of Tourism is committed to coordinate this training to enable local Tongans to be involvedand participate, with affordable training fees which in turn would minimized the income leakage in bringing overseas employees and reducing infringements of putting unqualified staff on board and to provide qualify trained staff to be employed by the whale watching operators.

The training was funded by the Ministry of Tourism with in-kind sponsorship of trainers and training materials from the Department of Environment and the Ministry of MEIDECC and TMPI.

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