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Friday defends Bequia whalers

Friday defends Bequia whalers

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Those not involved in whale hunting should not make those who are feel as though they are doing something wrong.{{more}}

That is the view of Parliamentary Representative for the Northern Grenadines Dr Godwin Friday, who spoke to SEARCHLIGHT a few days after Bequia’s whalers captured two whales, making it three for this year.

On March 8, a 35-foot bull was caught some 500 yards off Spring in Bequia, and on March 18, a female measuring 41 feet in length and a bull, 35 feet, were caught some 30 miles north of West Key.

But, according to Friday, while the issue of whaling may be controversial in some circles, it was a time of great celebration for those involved in an activity which has some traditional value.

And it has been a good year for the whalers this year he told SEARCHLIGHT.

“You understand that the International Whaling Commission (IWC) allows us, a whaling community, to take up to four whales a year,” he said.

“So long as they (whalers) are in compliance with the regulations set down by the IWC and the government, then they are not doing anything wrong,” Friday further explained.

Although many people may feel different about the taking of whales, that is their right to be against it, the MP for the Northern Grenadines said.

Whaling is hard work, he stated.

“It is a very difficult job that they take on and they do it year after year; sometimes they have success, sometimes not,” he said.

This year’s catch of three whales is the second time that Sylvester Hazell, Fisheries Officer for the Northern Grenadines, recalls that this has taken place.

The first time, in his experience, was back in 2010.

He too defended the whalers of Bequia, saying that there are measures in place to regulate the whaling industry.

One such measure includes that no whale under 25 feet in length should be taken in.

“Then it is undersized and illegal,” Hazell said.

There are some who were in favour of whale watching and there were others who preferred the traditional way of doing things, he said.

According to Hazell, the two activities may co-exist, but it would be difficult to convince him that whale watching would be a more lucrative activity or is a better alternative to whaling, especially when whale watching is either not being done here or if it is, on a small scale.

“So, where are your statistics to tell me that you can present this to me and show me if I watch whales that the government will generate x-amount of millions or the person doing it make so much per year? You have to show me that to convince me as a person who is hunting that that is the way to go,” he said.

Hazell was also of the view that the area in the Dominican Republic, recently visited by a Vincentian delegation, was one that whales frequented to mate.

“Around here, this is an area where they (whales) pass through – you will be lucky to catch up to them,” Hazell said.

“Those who are convinced, how many tourists will want to come here to go whale watching?

“Again you need to bring statistics and the numbers have to be significant and until they can bring figures, then people will remain on the traditional path,” he said.

According to Hazell, it is going to take a lot more than just talk to convince those involved in whaling to switch to whale watching.

On March 19, a five-person delegation, including a former whaler, returned to SVG after spending a week in the Dominican Republic, where they experienced three different whale watching trips. On their return, the group said it is now their intention to promote the idea of whale watching, rather than whale hunting, on the island of Bequia.

Hazell, however, is skeptical that whale watching would be feasible here.

“Those people get hundreds of thousands every year; St Vincent and the Grenadines would be glad to see one tenth of what those people get – we just can’t say we feel it could happen on the same level as there,” he said. (DD)

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