Whale-watching and the compromise of Tongan interests through tourism

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Evans, M 2005, 'Whale-watching and the compromise of Tongan interests through tourism', proceedings from the 1st International Small Island Cultures Conference, Kagoshima, Japan, Small Island Cultures Research Initiative, pp. 49-54.

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Peer Reviewed



Recent developments in whale-watching tourism in the Pacific and elsewhere have been widely touted as effective mechanisms for economic growth and replacements for the resumption of the consumptive use of whales in the region (Duffus, 1988; Hoyt, 1995, 2000; Orams, 1999, 2002). Indeed, whale-watching tourism is frequently presented as the economic and moral antithesis of whaling, and thus whale-watching advocates systematically preclude development options that include the consumptive use of whales. An anti-whaling, pro-whale-watching stance is also official policy of both Australian and New Zealand governments, the major aid donors in the region. The result is the suppression of discussions about the resumption of whaling in spite of regional food insecurity, balance of payment problems, and nutrition deficits that might be addressed via the resumption of whale consumption. While there is insufficient data to determine if a sustainable harvest of any whale stock is supportable, there is little or no interest among anti-whaling proponents in collecting such data because for many, whaling is a moral, not economic or ecological issue. In this paper I outline the argument for the evaluation of the resumption of whaling as a development option, and suggest that the suppression of any serious debate of this issue is a product of western ethnocentrism and a contemporary form of cultural imperialism.