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Tonga loses money whale watching

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


I am writing to you today with regard to making more public that the Tongan Government and people lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each whale watch season.

I recently attended a meeting in Vava'u with the Hon. Prime Minister and the Minister of Commerce, Tourism and Labour.  It was a good meeting however, a major concern was raised and I feel that this needs

to be made more public.

Two points were raised in this meeting:

1.  The number of Whale Watch Licenses being issued for Vava'u.  The MCTL of Vava'u proudly announced that these license fees provide approximately TOP90K in revenue to the Government.  However what they are doing is polluting the waters with too many boats!  There are 18 operators in Vava'u - which means there is a potential for 36 WW boats in the water for a 12-week period!  That's disgusting!  There is a potential for a serious accident and the ongoing harassment of the whales by that many boats is extremely dangerous.  That is too many licenses!

2.  As I mentioned above the MCTL provides very little revenue to the Government through licenses and is indirectly destroying the whale watch tourism industry.  What people of Tonga may not know is there are tour companies that come to Tonga, especially Vava'u and Ha'apai that earn in excess of $400,000 Australian dollars for a 12 week period and the Tongan Government sees nothing!

How these companies do this - it's very simple.  All their customers pay for their trips into overseas bank accounts, they bring in their own boats, MCTL issue's them a licence and off they go.  These people do not pay income tax in Tonga, they do not pay CT tax in Tonga.  They take their money, use our whales and then leave!

Some companies have been doing this for over 15 years!  Can you imagine how much money that equates to in lost revenue for the Government!

What should happen is this - if you want to run a Whale Watch/Swim business in Tonga - then you Must live in Tonga and run the company from here and not just for the 12 week period, as some other operators do - but you Must live here for a minimum of 10 months.   No outside companies can bring in their own boats - if they want to - then Tax them a lot of money!  That is how Government's earn proper revenue!

These people are cashing in on a natural resource of Tonga!

I hope you publish this letter - the people need to know and the Government needs to stop this practice immediately!


Selia Simmons


Thank you very much Selina for your very useful and informative comments. It is now a matter of political will to take up the issue and do something about it. I hope the Minister of Tourism will take notice of your valid view and makes it as its Ministry's policy for the benefit of the Kingdom. Tonga needs money and this is the valid way of collecting them.
Malo Sione Tu'itavake Fonua

Letter from 'Ofa Fakahau: Tongan people has been eating whale for decades and the people of Tonga realize the degrees the amount of whale and Law has been approved to ensure whale are not over harvest.
Tonga Government approved the Law to protect whale without any overseas advice or assistance. Since the government of Tonga stop harvest of whale, the people sick cause by old chicken & mutton flap fat import from New Zealand and other country.
Tonga should allow to harvest ten whale per year at the same time will not affect Whale Watch industries which benefit 99% of foreigner only. Humback whale in Australia and in New Zealand water are here in Tonga why tourists spend more money to travel here to Tonga without stop by in Australia?