The Pacific Voyage Media Team
21 October Nagoya, Japan - Palau in partnership with the South Pacific Whales Research Consortium, Whaleology, and the Pew Environmental Group, is beginning to lay the groundwork for developing a sustainable whale-watching industry.
This was announced by Bilung Gloria Salli during a presentation on the importance of marine mammals in the region at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The “Queen” of Koror State, the biggest state in Palau conducted a presentation during the side event sponsored by PEW on the current state of global marine biodiversity.
The presentation focused on marine biodiversity as it relates to large pelagic species including tuna, sharks and whales. Salii said the Pacific nation, known for its rich and diverse marine mammals is in the process of completing a whale-watching feasibility study.
“Whales and dolphins have always been friends to our communities. We have never hunted these intelligent creatures and we, the Palauan people, have never licensed any form of whaling in our waters. Whales and dolphins most often serve as guides to our fishermen and voyagers,” Salii says.
Salii says that Palau can benefit from the marine mammal tourism citing whale and dolphin-watching alone already generates approximately $23 million USD each year in direct revenues. Guam- a neighboring country, she notes is already enjoying $13 million each year from whale watching industry.
The initial study she says already confirmed at least 11 species of whales and dolphins in Palau.
“Already the outlook is very promising for Palau to access the economic benefits of marine mammal tourism,” she says.
She adds however that Palau still has a lot to learn and will be needing assistance through a scientific research on marine mammals in the region and whether these whales are being hunted in the Pacific waters.
“While we know that whale hunting was conducted throughout our waters, we have little, to no, information on what we really lost from these activities. For this reason, we are deeply committed, I am deeply committed, to obtaining the information we need to gain back what we lost to the whaling industry over the past three centuries,” she says.
This she emphasizes can be accompanied with protection of all marine mammals in all of Palau’s waters.
In many nations whales and dolphins are fully protected and a declaration of a sanctuary has enabled these nations to stand together to support sanctuaries with their neighbours. I congratulate all Pacific states who have sanctuaries and support sanctuaries,” Salii says.