You are in: International Change location
Whale watching is a $1.25 billion (USD) industry enjoyed by over 10 million people each year. Sadly, some tours put the welfare of whales at risk. So how can a compassionate traveller sort the good from the bad?
At their best, whale watching excursions give passengers the chance to appreciate whales in their natural environment, from a respectful distance. At their worst, they get too close, fight with other tour boats for viewing space and even encourage tourists to get close to or touch the animals.
To avoid these holiday horrors, make sure you ask some key questions.
Some countries have laws governing the whale watching industry to protect the animals’ welfare. Countries that rely on unenforceable codes of conduct place the onus to be responsible on the tour operator.
To ensure you are joining a responsible watching excursion, ask about the local laws or codes of conduct that tour operators must follow.
“Two of the most important things to look for in a good code of contact are restrictions on distance and speed” says Claire Bass, WSPA’s Programmes Manager for Marine Mammals. “Approaching animals too close or too fast risks propeller injuries, can cause stress, stop them behaving naturally and can even separate calves from their mothers.”
Additionally, the best tours will:
take turns with other boats at the watching distance.
Regulations governing whale watching tours in Argentina, Brazil and New Zealand are available on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society website.
Sperm whale fluke seen from a whale-watching boat, New Zealand
© Claire Bass/WSPA
At the 60th annual meeting of the IWC (International Whaling Commission) in June 2008, WSPA aims to pressure the IWC into making whale protection a high priority.
We believe that instead of debating hunting bans and kill quotas, the IWC should be working to protect whales and encouraging a sustainable whale watching industry that helps people understand more about these intelligent and sociable creatures.