A hump backed whale breaches off of Hunga Island - Japan sees dollar signs

Neiafu, Vavau Group, Tonga

These days it seems like everybody’s banging on about saving the environment, rescuing some endangered animal species, or warning about something catastrophic happening if the temperature goes up. Everything seems like a worthy cause – even the save the bees campaign got us wondering if the world might end without them. The trouble is trying to figure out which causes are about real problems and which have been corrupted by corporate interests. About most of these things, we just aren’t sure any more.

But over the past few days in Tonga we’ve experienced something that’s hit a real soft spot in us. Whales. It’s not that they’re vital to the global ecosystem, or that millions of people depend on them, or anything like that. But after watching them, swimming and diving with them, and even building a small friendship with a couple of these gentle giants, it just strikes us as pretty messed up to be slaughtering them for profit. They swim thousands of miles from the Antarctic to breed. They play like kids in the sea. They seem intelligent and aware of their surroundings, and comfortable with our presence. Surely they deserve better than a profit-driven slaughter.

But that is not the opinion of some countries, which continue to violate international laws against commercial whaling. Japan is the biggest offender and the most active in its attempts to deconstruct anti-whaling laws, but Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are also serial violators (fascinating documentary on the subject here). Particularly offensive are the solar panels that dot the rural villages here which are “tokens of friendship” in pursuit of “clean energy” gifted by Japan to the people of Tonga. The true motive has, of course, nothing to do with “friendship” or “clean energy”, and everything to do with Tonga’s vote at the International Whaling Commission which Japan thinks is an easy one to buy. We hope Tonga (and Japan’s other targets) resist the temptation.

The Vavau Group in northern Tonga, where we are now, is a magical cluster of tiny islands. The small distances between islands and the single protected reef on the windward side of the group makes this area a perfect playground for beginner sailors…. calm water everywhere and distances so short that we can hit two or three places in a single day. We’re using the good wifi here to catch up on emails and the sheltered bays to catch up on deferred boat work, and hoping to have our “to do” lists back under control within the next couple of days.

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