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The whale-watching industry: Historical development

  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Chippenham, England

Abstract and Figures

The story of commercial whale-watching spans half a century from the first $1 USD earned on the back of a grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) in 1955 to the $2.1 billion USD industry of today (Hoyt, 2009a; O’Connor et al., 2009). As with many new entertainment ‘industries’ of our era ranging from surfing to the iPods, iPhones and iPads of Apple Computer, Inc., it all started in California. The surprise perhaps lies in how popular and pervasive worldwide the whale-watching industry has become – to the extent that we now focus on the implications from ‘too much success’, try to limit the industry in some areas, and ask if true sustainability is achievable. The origins and early historical development of the whale-watching industry have shaped the industry to this day. Considering the developmental stages of tourism and rate of growth experienced by the whale-watch industry helps us understand its impact. Whale-watching has been profoundly influenced by a number of factors: (1) the platform used, including the types of boats, as well as the background and location of the whale-watching owner-operators; (2) the species being watched and the peculiar geography of the ecosystem where they are found; and (3) the typology of the visitors or tourists taking the trips and their expectations. Looking at all these aspects helps us grasp what the industry has become today and the implications for the future.
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The whale-watching industry
Historical development
Erich Hoyt and Chris Parsons
The story of commercial whale-watching spans half
a century from the first $1 USD earned on the back
of a gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) in 1955 to
the $2.1 billion USD industry of today (Hoyt, 2009a;
O’Connor et al., 2009). As with many new entertain-
ment ‘industries’ of our era ranging from surfing to
the iPods, iPhones and iPads of Apple Computer,
Inc., it all started in California. The surprise per-
haps lies in how popular and pervasive worldwide
the whale-watching industry has become – to the
extent that we now focus on the implications from
‘too much success’, try to limit the industry in some
areas, and ask if true sustainability is achievable.
The origins and early historical development
of the whale-watching industry have shaped the
industry to this day. Considering the developmen-
tal stages of tourism and rate of growth experienced
by the whale-watch industry helps us understand its
impact. Whale-watching has been profoundly influ-
enced by a number of factors: (1) the platform used,
including the types of boats, as well as the back-
ground and location of the whale-watch owner-
operators; (2) the species being watched and the
peculiar geography of the ecosystem where they are
found; and (3) the typology of the visitors or tourists
taking the trips and their expectations. Looking at all
these aspects helps us grasp what the industry has
become today and the implications for the future.
Early history
The first ‘official’ whale-watching trip was con-
ducted by a fisherman from San Diego, California,
named Chuck Chamberlin who put out a sign say-
ing ‘See the whales: $1’ (Hoyt, 1984, 2009b). These
were winter to spring boat trips to see gray whales as
they migrated back and forth between the lagoons
of Baja California, M´
exico and Alaska. Chamber-
lin was certainly influenced by the land-based stu-
dent whale-watching ‘counts’ then occuring since
the late 1940s as part of a University of Califor-
nia (La Jolla) research and government monitoring
project by the pioneer whale researcher Carl Hubbs.
In 1950, Cabrillo National Monument was converted
from an old US Army gun station into the first public
whale-watching lookout, hosting some 10,000 peo-
ple that first year (Hoyt, 1984, 2001). The other factor
was that Chamberlin had a boat and was not doing
much fishing in the winter (Hoyt, 1984; Gilmore,
pers. comm., 1983).
Gray whales – at the time recovering from very low
numbers after nineteenth-century whaling – gained
huge popularity from whale-watching. Following
the success of whale-watching at Cabrillo, lookouts,
formal and informal, some with naturalist guides,
sprang up all along the California coast to witness
the gray whale migration spectacle (Jones & Swartz,
2009). Californians adopted the gray whale as their
state marine mammal, and the whale became the
Whale-watching: Sustainable Tourism and Ecological Management, eds J. Higham, L. Bejder and R. Williams.
Published by Cambridge University Press. © Cambridge University Press 2014.
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58 E. Hoyt and C. Parsons
symbol of the US conservation movement in the
late 1960s (Forestell, 2009). It was a stirring thought
that this animal, heavily hunted and thought to be
nearly extinct, was returning to coastal waters in
ever-increasing numbers year after year.
Until the late 1970s, land-based whale-watching
was far more popular than boat-based whale-
watching, mainly driven by the numerous lookouts
all along the California, Oregon and Washington
coasts, as well as by California whale festivals (Hoyt,
2001). Thus, even though whale-watching was
becoming ever more popular, commercial whale-
watching was still embryonic.
During this period, commercial whale-watching
spread first to the Mexican lagoons, with long-range,
naturalist-led trips out of San Diego, and then up
the California coast with boat trips by fishermen
and organized school trips on larger tourist boats
out of the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.
A local Hawaiian whale club, the Wailupe Whale-
watchers, sponsored informal trips to see hump-
back whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). In 1973, the
Montreal Zoological Society began offering whale-
watch trips down the St Lawrence River in Canada
(Hoyt, 2009b) to see various baleen whales. In 1975,
whale-watching opened up to see the humpback
whales feeding in New England waters on the east
coast of the US. This was to prove a turning point.
Whale-watching becomes big business
A successful partnership between science, edu-
cation and commercial whale-watching began in
Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1975, when fish-
erman Al Avellar, of what would become the
Dolphin Fleet, asked Charles ‘Stormy’ Mayo to be
his naturalist. Mayo soon saw the possibilities for
using the boat as a platform for studying whales. He
set up the Center for Coastal Studies as a research
and educational institution, and the close ties with
commercial whale-watching here have been main-
tained ever since (Hoyt, 1995, 2009b).
The arrangement works as follows. The Center
provides naturalist guides for the Dolphin Fleet.
They are paid to help direct the boat to the whales,
presenting an informal educational lecture, and
answering questions. The Center sells T-shirts and
other merchandise on board. Most important, Cen-
ter researchers can conduct their own photo-ID
research and collect other data. This key partnership
between science, education and commerce proved
to be successful. Proximity to large human popula-
tions (Boston and New York) gave a huge potential
audience. The Center for Coastal Studies–Dolphin
Fleet partnership set the bar high for New England
whale-watching. By the early 1990s, 18 of the 21
whale-watching operators had naturalists guiding
boats and lecturing whale-watchers, while 10 opera-
tions were taking and contributing ID photos (Hoyt,
The New England model of successful whale-
watching, education and research, like Yankee whal-
ing from an earlier century, spread its influence
far and wide. New England has had an impact
on the development of whale-watching in locales
as diverse as the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Que-
bec, northern Norway, and Dominica in the east-
ern Caribbean. Operators from these areas worked
with, were visited by or in some cases actively stud-
ied the New England whale-watch model. Unfor-
tunately, over time, the model lost its impact as
whale-watching was transplanted further and fur-
ther afield, where operators sometimes with little
or no knowledge of whales using different kinds of
boats encountered different economic challenges,
with different customers.
Measuring the value of whale-watching
The first attempts to measure the commercial
impact of whale-watching came at the ‘Whales
Alive’ Conference in Boston in 1983, where sev-
eral researchers presented the first papers looking
at the industry from the perspective of economics
and social science. They found that whale-watchers
were generally well-educated, among other things,
and numbered at the time in the low hundreds
of thousands in what was then a North American
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The whale-watching industry 59
Table 5.1 Estimated growth of whale-watching worldwide.
Yea r
No of countries
and territories
with commercial
Number of
in millions
of US $
Tot a l
in millions
of US $
Average annual
increase % from
previous period Sources
1981 3 400,000 $4.1 $14 Kaza, 1982; Kelly, 1983;
Sergeant, pers. comm.,
1988 1,500,000 $11–16 $38.5–56 20.8% Kraus, 1989
1991 31(ck) 4,046,957 $77 $317.9 39.2% Hoyt, 1992
1994 65 5,425,506 $122.4 $504.3 10.3% Hoyt, 1995
1998 87 9,020,196 $299.5 $1,049 13.6% Hoyt, 2001
2008 119 12,977,218 $872.7 $2,113.1 3.7% O’Connor et al., 2009; Hoyt &
ıguez, 2008
industry (Kaza 1982; Kelly 1983; Tilt 1985a, 1985b).
The first estimate of the value of whale-watching
covered the year 1981 and amounted to $14 mil-
lion in total tourist expenditure (Kaza 1982; Kelly,
1983; Sergeant, pers. comm.; see Table 5.1). This
included the cost of tickets plus food, accommoda-
tion, travel and souvenirs associated with the whale-
watching trip. This simplified economic methodol-
ogy has been used ever since to chart the growth
of whale-watching, although other approaches such
as contingent valuation method and rate of return
have given valuable insights into the commercial
success of whale-watching.
Whale-watching goes global
In 1984, when The Whale Watcher’s Handbook was
published, the first world guide to whale-watching,
commercial whale-watching was in just four coun-
tries (Hoyt, 1984). By the mid to late 1980s, whale-
watching began to expand rapidly to areas such as
Argentina, Canary Islands (Tenerife), New Zealand,
the UK and Ireland. A world survey of commer-
cial whale-watching in 1991 turned up an estimate
of 4 million whale-watchers spending $317.9 mil-
lion USD. The number of whale-watchers grew to
5.4 million in 1994, and 9 million in 1998 (Hoyt 1995,
2001). In 1991, only 31 countries were involved in
whale-watching. By 1998, some 87 countries and
overseas territories had commercial whale-watch
tours with some 9 million people a year going
whale-watching (Hoyt, 2001). The growth rate from
1991 to 1998, based on numbers of whale-watchers,
was 12.1% average annual increase per year: 3–4
times the growth rate of all tourism arrivals during
the period (Hoyt, 2001). This was the greatest period
of growth experienced by whale-watching, and this
unchecked growth set up the problems with whale-
watching and the challenges to sustainability that
we face today.
By the early 2000s, whale-watching growth was
slowing down. The 9/11 travel blip, SARs, and the
threat of Bird Flu depressed tourism in general,
although only for a few years; mainly, it has shown
positive growth from 2000 to 2010. By 2008, the
whale-watch numbers had climbed to nearly 13 mil-
lion people spending $2.1 billion USD on whale-
watch tours in 119 countries (O’Connor et al., 2009).
However, the average increase from the period 1998
to 2008 was a much more reasonable 3.7% per year,
compared to global tourism growth of 4.2% per
year. Yet, in many areas of the world, the damage
from such fast, unchecked growth in the late 1980s
and through the 1990s has created enduring prob-
lems (Hoyt, 2009b). Also, even though overall the
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60 E. Hoyt and C. Parsons
levels have evened out, this is largely a factor of
the maturity of the North American industry which
represents nearly half of all whale-watching tourists
(O’Connor et al., 2009). Fast growth during the past
decade continues in young whale-watching coun-
tries such as mainland China (107% growth per
annum since 1998), Maldives (86%), Cambodia and
Laos together (79%), St. Lucia (74%), Madeira (73%),
Venezuela (58%), Costa Rica and Nicaragua (both
56%) and Panama (53%) (O’Connor et al., 2009).
Efforts to create effective regulatory frameworks in
these countries are essential if they are not to repeat
the mistakes of other countries in the past. Most
countries have allowed whale-watching to start up
with few, if any, controls, opting for regulations only
after problems begin to develop. New Zealand is an
example of a country that, right from the begin-
ning, regulated whale-watching with a permit sys-
tem and set of rules based on scientific studies and
precautionary management. In communities and
countries where whale-watching is recent or new,
there is the opportunity to learn from both this
good example and the experiences of other coun-
tries where problems became severe due to lack of
regulation. It may be easier for managers to take an
early proactive and precautionary approach than to
have to try to exercise control after whale-watching
is well established. The grave concern over the
fast growth of unregulated whale-watching and the
severe impacts that could occur to cetacean popu-
lations, particularly in developing countries, led to
the whale-watching subcommittee of the Interna-
tional Whaling Commission adopting this issue as
an annual item on their agenda (IWC, 2012)
Although too-fast growth has led to considerable
problems, current problems with whale-watching
can be understood by looking at the platforms
used, the species being watched and the peculiar
geography where they are found, and the typol-
ogy of the visitors or tourists taking the trips and
their expectations. In terms of platform, land-based
whale-watching and whale-watching on large ships
has accommodated growth better than fleets of
smaller boats or low-flying aircraft. Some species –
for example, southern right whales (Eubalaena
australis), humpback whales and gray whales – can
be watched from land on migration or on mating
grounds; other species require boats. When whale
or dolphin species are found in confined geograph-
ical areas such as narrow straits or bays, multiple
boats become a problem. In terms of the visitors
or tourists, mass tourists, in particular, can have
expectations for large hotels and other amenities
that can put a strain on the infrastructure of small
coastal communites. These concepts are discussed
in greater depth below.
Categories of commercial and other
As whale-watching has evolved, it has come to
encompass many different types of activity. For
example, whale-watching can be land-based, boat-
based or even aerial (whale-watching from heli-
copters, planes or balloons; Parsons et al., 2006).
Moreover, the activity might be ‘commercial whale-
watching’, where tourists pay to go out on a
trip, versus ‘recreational whale-watching’, where
cetaceans are viewed from personal vessels. Par-
sons et al. (2006) note that the distinction is impor-
tant as recreational whale-watching trips may not
be regulated and managed, and the organizers
may be unaware of their potential impacts on the
target species. Whale-watching is also separated
into ‘directed whale-watching’ where cetaceans are
being specifically sought out versus ‘opportunis-
tic whale-watching’, when a trip is not specifically
focused on seeing whales (e.g. a scenic marine tour),
but cetaceans are often seen on such trips and
are likely mentioned in the company’s marketing
materials (Parsons et al., 2006). Boat-based whale-
watching may also occur as ‘trips’ which may be a
few hours to a day long, or multi-day ‘tours’. The ves-
sel used might also be ‘powered’ or ‘unpowered’ (e.g.
kayaks, or sailing boats), and again the distinction
is important as powered vessels may produce more
noise, and hence greater impacts. Further details
about the diversity of whale-watching platforms are
listed in Table 5.2.
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The whale-watching industry 61
Table 5.2 The diversity of whale-watching platforms (and the impact on the character and size of the industry,
including the capital, staff and infrastructure needed, and the visitor types).
Platform or vessel type Origin Visitor types
Capital, staff, and
infrastructure needed Days Visitor capacity
Cruise ships (large) N, I GP H, H, L 1–7* 1000+
Cruise ships (medium) N, I GP H, H, L-M 1–15 25–150
Purpose-built large
w-w boats
L, N All H, M-H, M-H 1 150–300
Research vessels L, N, I HE, GP L-H, M-H, M 1–15 10+
Sailboats L, N, I All M, L-M, L-M 1–15 5+
Dinghy, panga L HE, GP L, L, L 1 2–5
L, N HE, GP L, L, L 1 2–15
Kayak/canoe L, N, I HE, GP L, L, L 1–15 1–2
Fishing/whaling boat L, N All M, M, M-H 1 5–25
Ferry L, N, I All L-M, L-M, M-H 1 50–300
Aircraft L, N All H, M-H, H 1 1–4
Land-based L All L, L, L 1–7 1–1000
Origin: L, Local; N, National; I, International.
Visitor types: GP, General public; HE, Higher education (13+); SC, School children (8–12).
Capital, Staff, & Infrastructure Needed:
capital needed for platform
staff needed (in relation to visitor numbers)
local infrastructure needed
L, Low; M, Medium; H, High.
Days: *Days can range from 1 to 30, but actual whale-watching days are usually 1 but sometimes up to 7.
Visitor capacity: Number of whale-watchers on a single trip.
Source: Table adapted from IFAW (1999) and Hoyt (2005), with permission.
Although perhaps not recognized as being
commercial whale-watching per se, cetacean
researchers often subsidize the costs of their
research trips by taking on board paying tourists,
who may also be involved in collecting data for the
researchers. As income is derived from taking pay-
ing tourists (sometimes referred to as ‘volunteers’)
to watch whales, however, even though the income
may be ploughed back into research and not for
profit, this type of activity should technically be
considered to be commercial whale-watching. The
data gathered by these ‘whale research tips/tours’
can prove valuable for conservation and the
management of the cetaceans being observed.
Parsons et al. (2006) highlight that for more effective
data-gathering, and to ensure that bona fide sci-
entific research is indeed taking place, ideally such
trips or tours should ensure that:
(1) Scientists are involved in providing advice on the design
and analysis of the survey/expedition.
(2) The data collected on the survey/expedition are anal-
ysed and published (ideally as peer-reviewed journal arti-
cles or reports).
(3) The results of the survey/expedition are disseminated
to the paying participants and appropriate authorities and
(4) The paying participants actively assist with in the
collection of data and/or logistical aspects of the sur-
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62 E. Hoyt and C. Parsons
(5) Appropriate and detailed training is given to the paying
participant (Parsons et al., 2006: 250).
The above, however, is different from ‘whale-
watching aided research’ when, for example, whale-
watching operations allow scientists to use the ves-
sel as a ‘platform of opportunity’, or when sightings
and environmental data are collected in a method-
ical manner and subsequently submitted to scien-
tists for analysis. Whale-watching aided research
has been extremely valuable in providing data
for cetacean conservation and management (IWC,
2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).
Some whale-watching trips involve placing
tourists in the water with cetaceans. These ‘swim-
with-cetacean’ activities most commonly occur
when dolphins are a target species, and the number
of countries where this occurs is increasing. Some
locations, such as Tonga, the Dominican Republic
and Australia, also have operations that allow
swimming with large whales, typically humpback
or northern minke whales (Balaenoptera acutoros-
trata). In some of these operations, tourists are
tethered to lines and animals control the encounter
(IWC, 2003), whereas in other operations some
pursuit is involved, or tourists are placed in the path
of oncoming cetaceans. Parsons et al. (2006) define
the former as ‘passive’ swim-with-cetacean trips,
and the latter ‘active’. There is some concern over
the fast growth and potential impacts of swim-with-
cetacean tourism, particularly swim-with whale
tourism, for the animals as well as the potential risks
to humans from such large animals (IWC, 2003),
although the ‘passive’ type is less of a problem in
terms of impacts on the target population.
With respect to potential impacts on cetaceans,
Parsons et al. (2006) define two types of ‘intrusive’
whale-watching, which have appeared in recent
years in some locations. These types of whale-
watching may be particularly harmful to cetaceans:
(1) Physically intrusive operations involve the tourists or
tour operators/crew physically touching the cetaceans in
any way except for accidental or incidental contact; and
(2) Ecologically intrusive operations include activities
that alter the natural history and behavioural ecology of
cetaceans, such as introducing food to cetaceans (Parsons
et al., 2006, p. 250).
Is commercial whale-watching ecotourism?
Whale-watching is often described as ‘ecotourism’,
but ecotourism has a specific definition. Ceballos-
Lascurain (1991) was one of the first to officially
define this type of this type of tourism activity
Tourism that involves traveling to relatively undisturbed or
uncontaminated areas with the specific objective of study-
ing, admiring, and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants
and animals, as well as any existing cultural manifestations
(both past and present) found in these areas. (p. 25)
In 1996, the IUCN officially adopted a similar defini-
tion of ecotourism:
Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visi-
tation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to
enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural
features, both past and present) that promotes conserva-
tion, and provides for beneficially active socioeconomic
involvement of local populations.(Ceballos-Lascurain,
Honey (1999) provides a similar definition that has
become widely adopted which emphasizes educa-
tion, contributions to conservation and benefits to
local host communities:
Ecotourism is travel to fragile, pristine, and usually pro-
tected areas that strive to be low impact and (usually)
small scale. It helps educate the traveler; provides funds for
conservation; directly benefits the economic development
and political empowerment of local communities; and fos-
ters respect for different cultures and for human rights.
(p. 25)
A profusion of descriptions of ecotourism led
Fennell (1999) to review 15 definitions of ecotourism
and ultimately come up with his own composite
Ecotourism is a sustainable form of natural resource-
based tourism that focuses primarily on experiencing and
learning about nature, and which is ethically managed
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The whale-watching industry 63
to be low-impact, non-consumptive, and locally oriented
(control, benefits, and scale). It typically occurs in natural
areas, and should contribute to the conservation or preser-
vation of such areas. (p. 43)
Therefore, by definition, ecotourism is a tourism
activity that is specifically designed to reduce its
impacts, has a component of local host population
involvement and participation, and promotes con-
servation. As such, probably few whale-watching
tourism’. The International Whaling Commission
has gone further and their whale-watching sub-
committee specifically defined ‘whale ecotourism’
as a commercial whale-watching operation that
attempts to:
(a) Actively assist with the conservation of their resource
(cetaceans), such as co-operating with research groups and
other scientists and with research projects or allowing ves-
sels to be used by scientists/research groups as platforms
of opportunity;
(b) Provide appropriate, accurate and detailed interpreta-
tive/educational materials or activities for their clientele
about the cetaceans viewed and their associated habitat;
(c) Minimize their environmental impact (such as reducing
emissions or disposing of refuse appropriately);
(d) Adhere to whalewatching regulations or an appropriate
set of guidelines, if no specific regulations are available for
the area; and
(e) Provide some benefits to the local host community
within which the company operates. Such benefits could
include a policy of preferential employment of local people,
selling local handicrafts, or supporting (either financially or
in kind), local community-based conservation, education,
cultural or social projects or activities, (for example finan-
cially or in kind support for a voluntary marine rescue ser-
vice or providing non-profit trips for local schools). (Par-
sons et al., 2006: 250–251)
Certain operations in locations such as North
America, Australia and Europe could qualify as
whale ecotourism using the above definition, but at
present these would be a small minority of opera-
tions. To reduce the impacts of whale-watching on
cetaceans, and to enhance the economic benefits of
whale-watching at a local level, encouraging whale-
watching operations to become whale ecotourism
would ultimately promote the sustainability of
the industry. Although whale-watching boat trips
would be the most abundant companies that could
possibly be considered as cetacean ecotourism, it
should be noted that the above definition could eas-
ily be applied to land-based whale-watching oper-
ations, or cetacean-themed museums and visitor
Problems related to whale-watching growth
Whale-watching arguably started in California as a
passion and only later became a business. The fun-
damental aspects that helped create the business
was: (1) that whales, initially the gray whales, were
based spectators and later by customers in small
boats, (2) the availability of customers who were
keen, and (3) the availability of boats to take them
to get a closer look. The whales and customers were
essential, of course, but equally important was the
availability of boats that were not being used during
the periods that whales were present. These were
fishing boats, mainly, but also local tourist sightsee-
ing boats, cruisers, diving skiffs, and in some cases
However, as the industry developed, in both
California and elsewhere in the world, there was
a proliferation of dedicated whale-watching tours
and vessels. As such, the density of vessels around
groups of cetaceans in some locations began to
escalate. Even in areas where there are regulated
limits on the number of vessels allowed in close
proximity to whales, once one vessel leaves, another
can approach almost immediately, leaving the ani-
mals almost constantly exposed to disturbances.
With the success of whale-watching in New
England, the boats changed. Bigger boats were
custom-designed for whale-watching (with flat
decks, seats, toilets, and an ability to sell conces-
sions on board including seasick tablets, sunscreen
and refreshments). This allowed New England
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64 E. Hoyt and C. Parsons
whale-watching to move more gracefully into a
mature phase, attracting wider groups of tourists,
and larger numbers without necessarily increasing
the number of vessels. Larger vessels, however, may
have greater impacts, being potentially noisier and
less maneuverable. The facility to take out larger
numbers of tourists may also lead to a broadening
of the tourist types taking trips, from more special-
ist tourists to more general or mass tourists, which
may change tourism expectations (Duffus & Dear-
den, 1990). More about this later.
In other locations, however, the problem of ves-
sel crowding has become particularly serious. In
the Canary Islands, for example, the proliferation
of boats and lack of regulation in the late 1980s
and early 1990s led to a crisis situation with close
to 100 boats on the water. Similar situations have
been reported off southern Vancouver Island with
vessles watching killer whales (Orcinus orca)from
both US and Canadian ports converging on a sin-
gle endangered population of killer whales– the so-
called ‘southern residents. Scientists in this region
are concerned about the impact of such crowding,
which is not currently regulated (Williams et al.,
There is also an increasing trend for faster and
faster vessels to get to whale-watching locations
more rapidly, and thus more tourists can be taken
out over the course of a day. The potential impacts
of high-speed whale-watching vessels, defined as
those travelling at more than 13 knots (IWC, 2005)
have led to some international concerns (e.g. IWC,
2003, 2004; see Box 5.1 for details about the IWC).
These faster vessels are more likely to kill cetaceans
if collisions occur; the risk of collision is potentially
increased, due to less time for whales or vessels to
manoeuvre out of the way; and potentially these
faster vessels could produce more noise pollution
that could disturb animals.
Box 5.1 The International Whaling Commission
and whale-watching
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was estab-
lished in 1946 to address the declines in many large whale
stocks due to commercial whaling, and manage these
stocks. Through the IWC, whaling bans were successively
introduced for a variety of depleted whale species, and
in 1982 a ban or moratorium was imposed on all com-
mercial whaling (which came into effect in 1986). In 1993,
the IWC passed a resolution (resolution 1993–9), noting
that whale-watching was a sustainable use of whales as a
resource, and further noted the growing economic value
of the industry. The following year (via resolution 1994–
14) the IWC Scientific Committee was asked to provide sci-
entific advice on whale-watching issues, including guide-
lines for whale-watching operations. A third resolution in
1996 (resolution 1996–2) emphasized that because the IWC
was tasked to consider the use, management and conser-
vation of whales as resources, and as whale-watching was
a major economic use of cetaceans, it had a role in oversee-
ing whale-watching and its management internationally.
To provide the scientific advice, the IWC Scientific
Committee established a whale-watching subcommit-
tee. Every year, the subcommittee discusses scientific
studies that provide information on the impacts of
whale-watching activities on cetaceans, and methods
to collect scientific data from whale-watching vessels to
aid management of whale stocks. The whale-watching
subcommittee also developed a set of international
whale-watching guidelines (
conservation/wwguidelines.htm), and compiled a com-
pendium of whale-watching laws, regulations, and codes
of conduct from around the world (IWC, 2006). Moreover,
in 2004, it organized and held a workshop on the scien-
tific aspects of sustainable whale-watching (IWC, 2005;
available from documents/
sci com/WW Workshop.pdf). The subcommittee also
discusses arising and sometimes controversial aspects
of the whale-watching industry, such as dolphin feeding
stations, swim-with-whale tourism, and the impacts of
high-speed whale-watching vessels.
Since 2009, the Conservation Committee of the IWC
has also been developing an action plan to deal with
whale-watching management issues, again recognizing
the importance of whale-watching as an economic use
of cetaceans, and the potential impacts that the activity
poses, and so the body may become even more involved
in international oversight of the industry.
In some locations the number of companies
are limited (via licensing systems), and there are
controls on the number and duration of trips. In
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The whale-watching industry 65
Kaikoura, New Zealand, for example, there is
only one permit for sperm whale watching with
a restricted number of boats operated by one
company. Additional permits in this area were
awarded to dolphin watching, dolphin swimming,
and watching from helicopter and fixed-wing air-
craft. Each company has become a specialist and
the renewal of permits depends on good practice.
In Puerto Pir´
amides, Argentina, only six compa-
nies are allowed to operate southern right whale
tours. For some years, South Africa did not allow
whale-watching boats, preferring to encourage a
land-based industry, and when they did finally allow
boat-based whale-watching, restricted it to two per-
mits per area. In general, in such areas where the
regulations are in place and are strictly enforced,
the industry is arguably more sustainable because
there is less pressure on the animals, and the exist-
ing businesses have less competition and may be
more willing to invest in their own company. How-
ever, there are many areas where there are licens-
ing systems and thorough regulations on paper, but
compliance with these may be extremely low (e.g.
Scarpaci et al., 2003, 2004), unless appropriate mon-
itoring occurs and these regulations are enforced.
With an increase in the number and availabil-
ity of boat-based whale-watching trips, and what
may arguably be a desire by tourists to get closer to
cetaceans, land-based whale-watching, which was
initially an important component of whale tourism,
has become less important as a sector of the whale-
watching industry. This is unfortunate, as land-
based whale-watching has no direct impacts on
the cetaceans being viewed, and some threatened
species of cetaceans, such as southern right whales,
can readily be watched benignly from land plat-
The propensity of some species of whales and
dolphins to be curious and to approach boats has
not only determined the species that are most likely
to be watched, but has shaped the kind of whale-
watching that occurs. Some species of large whale
such as gray whales, humpback whales, and, to
an extent, northern minke whales (Balaenoptera
acutorostrata), frequently approach boats. Many
dolphin species approach vessels to bow-ride on
fast-moving vessels. This tendency for animals to
approach vessels can lead to management prob-
lems, especially when local regulations require ves-
sels to maintain some distance from cetaceans. In
contrast to birds or other land-based wildlife where
it is accepted that best practice is for the observer
to be unobtrusive or invisible to the wildlife while
watching from a blind, whales and dolphins are
approached by often noisy boats and the animals
may be aware of the whale-watchers.
However, not all cetaceans are curious and read-
ily approach vessels. Some species may be ‘shy’,
attempting to avoid whale-watching boats, such as
harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). There may
be certain age classes of individual species, or cer-
tain times of the year (e.g. breeding seasons), or
even times of day (e.g. feeding or resting with spin-
ner dolphins, Stenella longirostris or killer whales)
when cetaceans might be more vulnerable. Some
species are vulnerable or endangered, and arguably
these species perhaps should not be watched at
all, unless watching is from discrete land-based
platforms (e.g. Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevi-
rostris); see Beasley et al., 2010). A ‘one size fits all’
attitude to whale-watching operations and manage-
ment, and an inability to recognize that different
species and populations, under a complex set of
variables, behave differently around boats, may lead
to more sensitive species being stressed, or guide-
lines and regulations being put in place that are
inappropriate or ineffective (IWC, 2012).
Partially because of the propensity of some
species to be ‘curious’ towards whale-watching ves-
sels, the whales’ natural curiosity has in effect
shaped wildlife experiences into ‘encounters, such
that this becomes the expectation for many if not
most whale-watching trips (Hoyt, 2003). Moreover,
marketing materials by whale-watching compa-
nies and conservation groups (NGOs) showing pic-
tures or videos of close encounters with cetaceans,
and footage of spectacular behaviours being exhib-
ited by whales and dolphins in the media, or
even previous experiences of feeding dolphins by
hand and circus-style tricks in captive cetacean
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66 E. Hoyt and C. Parsons
facilities, whale-watchers often have unrealistic
expectations of what they will experience when they
‘meet’ the whales. As a result, operators may feel
pressured to get closer to animals or manoeuvre
their vessels to solicit behaviour such as bow-riding
or breaches to satisfy their clients (Orams, 2000).
This encounter-driven whale-watching, largely con-
ducted from large boats, has serious implications in
terms of developing sustainable, ecological whale-
watching management.
As whale-watching industries have developed
and as the capacity to accommodate ever more
tourists has increased, there has been a shift in the
kind of tourist from a specialist type, such as the
dedicated whale enthusiast who might be knowl-
edgeable about cetaceans and concerned about
cetacean conservation and environmental issues,
the so-called ‘pioneer ecotourist’ (e.g. Rawles & Par-
sons, 2004), to a more general or ‘mass’ tourist
(Duffus & Dearden, 1990). These general tourists
have different expectations about whale-watching
trips, may be less environmentally motivated, less
understanding of cetacean behaviour, may demand
quicker, more action-packed and encounter-driven
trips, and thus may also impose fewer demands
towards the development of an ecologically respon-
sible industry.
The geography of whale-watching locations is
another crucial factor as to whether problems
may soon or eventually develop as whale-watching
grows. ‘Geographically restricted’, or somewhat con-
fined, areas such as Stellwagen Bank National
Marine Sanctuary, southern Tenerife and southern
Vancouver Island are notable for having concen-
trated whale populations in one area that are served
by numerous whale-watching operators from var-
ious ports all converging on the same area. This
can also happen with cetacean populations con-
fined in rivers, fjords, estuaries or bays. In contrast,
whales that are spread out over extended coastlines
(e.g. California, South Africa, parts of Australia) or
around large islands (e.g. Iceland) may have only 1–
2 operators from each port going to different popu-
lations or different portions of a population and not
putting stress on the same individuals repeatedly.
It is important to note that significant impacts
can occur on cetaceans (Parsons, 2012), sometimes
with only a small amount of whale-watch activity
or growth in the industry. For example, Bejder et al.
(2006a, 2006b) documented impacts on a dolphin
population in Australian coastal waters, including a
decline in the population (Bejder et al., 2006b), with
just two dolphin-watching vessels operating in the
Whale-watching development in
whaling countries
Part of the growth of whale-watching has seen
its spread into the three main whaling countries
of Japan and Norway (from 1988), and Iceland
(1991). Norway hunts northern minke whales (Bal-
aenoptera acutorostrata), approximately 600–700 a
year, under a reservation to the IWC commercial
whaling moratorium (see Box 5.1). Japan also hunts
whales – northern (B. acutorostrata) and Antarctic
(B. bonaerensis) minke whales, Bryde’s (B. edeni),
sei (B. borealis), fin (B. physalus), and sperm whales
(Physeter macrocephalus) – via an IWC provision
that allows whales to be killed for scientific research.
After scientific samples are taken, the whale meat is
processed and sold in food markets. This scientific
whaling programme is somewhat controversial and
has been heavily criticised for the poor quality of
its ‘science’ (e.g. Clapham et al., 2003, 2007). Iceland
has conducted scientific whaling in recent years, but
then switched to commercial whaling, and currently
takes northern minke whales and fin whales.
Whale-watching in Japan started first in the
remote tropical islands of Ogasawara of far south-
ern Japan and took a few years to move to the
mainland. At one time more than 20 communi-
ties had whale-watching trips all over Japan and
today nearly 200,000 people a year go whale-
watching. This is widely seen as part of a new
wave of interest by young people who may have
watched whales in Guam, Hawaii, British Columbia
or Mexico, and have no interest in eating whales
(Morikawa & Hoyt, in press 2011). For the most
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The whale-watching industry 67
part, the Japanese whale-watching locations are
well removed from whaling areas, and attempts
to develop whale-watching near locations where
cetaceans are hunted (e.g. Taiji) have failed due to
‘discord between drive and hand-harpoon fisher-
men, and tourists, resulting from different opinions
over animal welfare’ (Endo & Yamao, 2007: 180).
In Norway, whale-watching has grown much
more slowly, perhaps because of Norway’s tourism
audience largely from European countries where
whaling is considered a thing of the past. Whale-
watching in Norway is largely targeted towards killer
whales and sperm whales, and not species that
are hunted, and whaling and whale-watching occur
in different locations, although there have been
instances of whales being killed by whaling opera-
tions in the view of passengers of whale-watching
vessels, leading to consternation among whale-
watching passengers, especially young passengers
(Berglund, 2006).
In Iceland, whale-watching became well estab-
lished and took off dramatically in the years before
Iceland resumed first so-called scientific whal-
ing (in 2003) and then commercial whaling (in
2006). For a number of years in the late 1990s
and early 2000s, Iceland commanded one of the
highest growth rates for whale-watching in the
world (see Chapters 7 and 8). Proximity to whal-
ing, particularly in Faxafloi off Reykjavik, has led
to friction between whale-watching operators and
whalers, including whale-watching companies try-
ing to blockade whaling boats (Iceland Review
Online, 2008). Whale-watching companies in Ice-
land have also protested that sightings of northern
minke whales – one of the main target species for
Icelandic whale-watching – have decreased due to
removals of animals by whaling operations (Iceland
Review Online, 2007). The whale-watching opera-
tor association in Iceland has argued for a cessa-
tion of whaling, releasing several official statements
to this effect. It has been debated whether whale-
watching businesses have suffered in Iceland due
to whaling. However, some foreign companies in
the UK and Germany certainly cancelled trips after
whaling re-started in Iceland (Williams, 2006), but
others renewed their efforts to get customers to sup-
port the whale-watching operators who offer a non-
lethal alternative economic use for whales. Some
argue that countries that attract wildlife and nature
tourists and yet continue to engage in whaling risk
diminishing their tourism image and their poten-
tial audience and that it can take decades to recre-
ate an effective tourism brand (Hoyt & Hvenegaard,
2002; Hoyt, 2007). This view has been backed with
research data, however. In a survey in Scotland,
more than 90% of whale-watchers stated that they
would not go on a whale-watching trip in a coun-
try that hunted whales and nearly 80% would boy-
cott taking a holiday in a whaling country altogether
(Parsons & Rawles, 2003).
It is important to note that a number of conserva-
tion NGOs have actively supported and advocated
whale-watching as an alternative to whaling in these
countries. There may be some difficult compro-
mises when the calls are made to boycott travel to
whaling countries, but the same NGOs have empha-
sized that whale-watch operators in these coun-
tries should in fact be supported as they are often
the strongest voice within the country opposing the
whaling decisions made by fisheries, if not from
a conservation perspective then from an arguably
more tangible economic perspective.
Whale-watching is a substantive industry in the
Caribbean (Hoyt & Hvenegaard, 2002), in partic-
ular in countries such as the Dominican Repub-
lic, Dominica and Belize (Hoyt, 2005; O’Connor
et al., 2009. Several Caribbean countries have taken
an active position supporting commercial whal-
ing bodies such as the IWC, and whale-watching
researchers have highlighted the potential eco-
nomic impacts that whaling could have on tourism
(Hoyt & Hvenegaard, 2002). A recent study has tried
to quantify this, and found that more than three-
quarters of tourists surveyed at a Caribbean tourism
destination stated that if a Caribbean country sup-
ported the hunting or capture of whales or dol-
phins they would be less likely to visit it on holi-
day (Draheim et al., 2003 2010). Due to the enor-
mous role that tourism plays in the economy of
Caribbean islands, data such as this should at least
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68 E. Hoyt and C. Parsons
make governments think twice before being a vocal
proponent of whaling, or engaging in commercial
whaling themselves. Although more data are needed
on the compatibility between whaling and whale-
watching in the same location (Higham & Lusseau,
2007, 2008), data do seem to suggest that whaling
is detrimental to the growth and development of a
whale-watching industry.
Whale-watching started from humble beginnings,
and rapidly grew to become a substantial interna-
tional industry. A recent analysis of whale-watching
potential based upon known data on whale and dol-
phin distributions suggested that there are still areas
of high cetacean abundance where whale-watching
could expand, and that if these opportunities in
these places were exploited, whale-watching could
generate an additional $413 million USD (2009) in
annual revenue which when added to the current
$2.1 billion USD estimates for the economic value
for whale-watching could bring the annual value of
the international whale-watching industry to more
than $2.5 billion USD (Cisneros-Montemayor et al.,
2010). However, many of these potential locations
for growth are in developing countries, and care
must be taken to ensure that the industry devel-
ops sensibly, whales as a resource are not impacted,
and sensitive species and populations, in partic-
ular, are not being stressed. Following the inten-
sive growth in the 1990s, it is clear that a ‘one
size fits all’ approach to whale-watching opera-
tions and management does not work. The nature
of the whale-watching activities, the location, and
species being watched are all factors that must be
considered when developing management plans to
reduce the impacts of whale-watching; for exam-
ple, how large and fast are vessels? Educating and
communicating with tourists is also important –
the tourists should have realistic expectations about
what they are likely to see, and also be aware of the
need to reduce the impacts of their whale-watching
activities on the animals they wish to encounter.
A key requirement of whale-watching management
is that compliance with guidelines and regulations
be monitored, and regulations enforced.
As commercial whale-watching moves through
the second decade of the twenty-first century and its
seventh decade since inception, the challenge now
is to develop management approaches that are site-
and species-specific. Now more than ever, Whale-
watching needs before to examine past problems
and mistakes, and the scientific research quanti-
fying the dimensions of the problems, as well as
to take on board management advice, in order to
become the sustainable and ecologically responsi-
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... Whale watching is a growing tourism activity worldwide. Commercial whale watching began in South America in the 1990s (Hoyt and Iñíguez, 2008;Hoyt and Parsons, 2014). In Colombia, whale watching started in Bahía Málaga (Valle del Cauca Department) in 1994 (Arias-Gaviria et al., 2011). ...
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Uramba Bahía Málaga Natural National Park is one of the most important places visited by tourists to see humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Colombia. Humpback whales arrive from Southern Chile and the Antarctic Peninsula every year between May and December to reproduce, give birth and rear calves. To evaluate the current state of whale-watching in Málaga we analyzed tourist visitation data from 2011 to 2019 during the peak whale-watching season (July–October), and during one week in October 2020. We found that whale-watching activity has increased considerably. In 2019, 21,186 tourists realized whale watching in Málaga. Whale watchers per month increased by 108% and monthly whale-watching boat trips increased by 140%, in the last decade. Currently there are in average 19 boat trips per day (±18.0), and most boats are small (≤15 m). Tourists came mainly from Colombia (90%). August was the most important month for whale watching. Although environmental education activities are undertaken, currently responsible whale-watching guidelines are overlooked. At present, whale-watching activity produces important economic benefits for local people and neighboring sites, with a monthly expenditure of at least $362,409 USD, but to ensure the sustainable continuity of this activity, negative impacts on whales need to be minimized. We classified management challenges into social, economic and biological aspects. From a social perspective, operators should form a whale-watching community association; this would improve cooperation amongst operators, promote good practices in whale-watching and reduce pressure on whales. Economic recommendations include 1) whale-watching trips handled mainly by local people; 2) ticket prices unification; and 3) investment in tourist facilities. Biological recommendations focus on the welfare of whales and include: 1) follow the current whalewatching recommendations strictly; 2) reduce transit speeds to below 10 knots in the area during whale season; 3) use propeller guards; 4) promote land-based whale watching; 5) implement acoustic whale tourism; 6) reinforce environmental education programs; and 7) support long-term monitoring and scientific research. Based on these three aspects, we urge environmental and ethnic authorities, conferring with relevant stakeholders, to determine the whale-watching carrying capacity of the area and to promote a responsible tourism. Authorities need to strengthen the monitoring, oversight and control of this growing tourist activity in order to ensure its long-term persistence.
... The tremendous growth in whale watching in recent decades (O'Connor et al. 2009) has elevated concerns that cetaceans are being disturbed by the physical presence and sound of whale-watching vessels (Parsons 2012, Hoyt andParsons 2014). Boat-based whale watching has been documented to cause changes in the behavior of humpback whales in some locations (e.g., Stamation et al. 2010), but overall the activity is not known to cause significant harmful impacts to the species. ...
Technical Report
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The humpback whale is found in nearly all of the world’s oceans and undertakes long distance migrations between winter breeding grounds in tropical and subtropical waters and summer feeding grounds in high-latitude waters. Humpbacks were heavily exploited worldwide during the whaling era, including in Washington. By the time the species received global protection in 1966, North Pacific populations were severely depleted, with estimates of only 1,200 to 1,400 individuals remaining. Since then, these populations have rebounded to an estimated 16,000 to 21,000 animals, although some stocks have recovered more successfully than others. Humpback whales have been listed as a state endangered species in Washington since 1981. In 2016, the National Marine Fisheries Service identified 14 Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) worldwide, three of which visit Washington’s waters. These include (1) the Mexico DPS, which comprises 27.9% of humpback whales present in the state and is federally threatened, (2) the Central America DPS, which contributes the fewest animals (8.7%) among Washington’s humpbacks and is federally endangered, and (3) the Hawaii DPS, which comprises 63.5% of the humpbacks visiting Washington and is not federally listed. Humpbacks in the North Pacific remain vulnerable to a number of threats, including entanglement in fishing gear and marine debris, ship strikes, human-generated marine sound, the effects of climate change, and for the Central America DPS, possible issues related to small population size. Although humpback whales have rebounded since the cessation of whaling, the Central America DPS and Mexico DPS, which together comprise 36.6% of the humpbacks that visit Washington waters, remain below sustainable numbers and continue to be federally listed as endangered and threatened, respectively. Due to their federal status and the threats and uncertainties described in this report, it is recommended that this species be retained as a state endangered species in Washington.
... Dolphin-watching in the REFAUTS takes place mainly from speedboats with the capacity for up to 18 tourists and motors with power up to 225 hp (Lunardi et al., 2017); these speedboats are more likely to crash into cetaceans and produce higher noise levels (Hoyt and Parsons, 2013). Municipal Law n o 349/2007 regulates the maritime transport of tourist visits in the REFAUTS and determines: (i) boat speed limit must not exceed 4 kn; (ii) boat engines must be turned off when the distance between the boat and the Guiana dolphin is less than 50 m; (iii) boats may only remain in the restricted use zone for up to 20 min on each trip and (iv) only one boat at a time shall remain in the restricted use zone (Tibau do Sul-RN, 2007). ...
Guiana dolphin, Sotalia guianensis, is endangered and is one of the main target species for dolphin-watching in Brazil. This study aimed to investigate the compliance of routes of dolphin-watching boats in the Tibau do Sul Coastal Wildlife Reserve (REFAUTS) with the current legislation. The 'route' tool of a GPS navigation system enabled the recording of the route and speed of the boats and boat trip duration in the REFAUTS. The kernel map was constructed from the geographical coordinates during the tourist boat trips and showed the presence intensity of the tourist boats for Dolphin Bay and Madeiro Bay. At REFAUTS, tourist boats stayed longer and moved above the speed allowed by law. These boats showed low levels of compliance with the current legislation, which could result in damage to the Guiana dolphins. The prioritization of actions to promote the appropriate management of the REFAUTS, sustainability of tourism, and the conservation of the Guiana dolphins should focus on the boat operators and tourists.
... The problem of vessel crowding first appeared in European waters, off South Tenerife, in the Canary Islands in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Hoyt and Parsons, 2014). A local population of pilot whales (Globicephala melas) and bottlenose dolphins became the subject of unregulated watching and swimming tours with nearly 100 boats on the water. ...
Whale watching refers to the commercial activity of viewing any of the 90 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises in their natural habitat (Hoyt, 2001; IFAW et al., 1995). The wide variety of whale watching activities includes tours lasting from 1 hour to 2 weeks, using platforms ranging from kayaks to cruise ships, from land points including cliffs and beaches, from sea planes and helicopters, as well as swimming and diving activities in which the whale watcher enters the water with cetaceans. Whale watching grew out of the traditions of bird watching and, to a lesser extent, other forms of land-based wildlife watching. To this day, the better whale and dolphin trips include sightings of seabirds, seals, turtles, and other marine fauna to appeal to more people as well as to give a well-rounded ecological interpretation (Hoyt, 2012). The first commercial whale watching tours occurred in southern California in 1955, with a fisherman charging $1 USD for a short trip to view gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus). People were already coming in the thousands to see the whales from the cliffs and near lighthouses during their winter and late spring migrations. By 1959, Ray Gilmore, a US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, had begun acting as a naturalist on whale watching trips out of San Diego (Hoyt, 2001). Whale watching became big business soon after it started up in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1975, with multiple operators in at least seven communities taking approximately 1 million people a year to see whales (Hoyt, 2001). Much is made of the commercial aspects of whale watching, but it is also useful to consider the educational, scientific, conservation and recreational aspects. These aspects explain some of the broad success of whale watching and show its value in a wider sense than commerce alone. Five international workshops on whale watching in the 1990s and early 2000s productively considered these other aspects, and helped to build the argument that whale watching at its best could be a sustainable industry offering positive impacts not only for business, but for local communities, tourists, students, and the whales themselves (IFAW et al., 1995, 1997; IFAW, 1999; Hoyt, 2001, 2005, 2018; O’Connor et al., 2009, etc.). The explosive growth in whale watching has put a spotlight on management. In areas with multiple operators offering two-three times daily tours, and especially in confined geographical areas, typical scenarios include: too many boats on the water in a confined area due to the size or location of cetacean critical habitat; too many close approaches; strain on the infrastructure of a community and the environment of cetaceans from too many visitors; disputes and a competitive atmosphere among tourism companies; ineffective guidelines, regulations and enforcement; and poor compliance to existing rules (Higham et al., 2014; Hoyt, 2018).
... Since the late 1990s, when whale-watching started in California, the whale watching industry has grown considerably worldwide (Hoyt and Parsons, 2012). From its expansion, whale watching has been reported to bring considerable economic benefits (Cisneros-Montemayor et al., 2010;Parsons and Brown, 2017). ...
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In 2001 Italy, France, and Principality of Monaco instituted a protected area for marine mammals in northwestern Mediterranean Sea, named the Pelagos Sanctuary. The agreement foresees the commitment by signing parties to manage human activities in the area, with a special mention to whale watching. Whale watching is a form of wildlife tourism which has considerably grown in the last decades. Understanding the profile of whale watchers and their satisfaction toward the activity, is the first step toward a sustainable and effective management of this touristic activity. In this work we provide the first analysis of the whale watching activity in the Pelagos Sanctuary, focusing on commercial whale watching tours departing from Italian harbors in Liguria. We provide a census of the activity and the results of close-ended questionnaires filled by whale watchers during trips in summer 2016 and 2017. The aim of the questionnaires was to understand the level of awareness of experienced and new whale watchers regarding the Pelagos Sanctuary and some conservation initiative going on in the area. Finally, we analyzed the satisfaction level, with the aim of evidencing weakness and strengths of the service offered. Our results evidence a growth in the activity in the last 15 years, with a wider differentiation of offers and impacting a larger area than previously found. Whale watchers in the area come from a variety of countries, demonstrating the importance of the Pelagos as a hot spot for this activity. A high level of satisfaction has been evidenced, with no difference among new and experienced whale watchers. At the same time, more effort is needed to increase awareness of Pelagos and its conservation initiative both at a national and international level. This study provides useful information for the start of an effective management of whale watching in this protected area.
... The long-term cumulative effect of tourism-induced behavioural changes and stress may result in population decline and displacement (Bejder et al., 2006;Lusseau & Bejder, 2007). These negative impacts on cetaceans draw into question the long-term ecological sustainability of the BBWW sector (Hoyt & Parsons, 2014), however, this narrative is not frequently nor effectively conveyed to tourists (Finkler & Higham, 2020). Globally, voluntary codes of conduct and governmental permitting systems have been developed as one way to mitigate and minimise negative impacts (Allen et al., 2007;Amerson & Parsons, 2018;Guerra & Dawson, 2016;Higham et al., 2016;Wiley et al., 2008). ...
Long-term sustainability of South Africa's boat-based whale-watching (BBWW) industry requires any desired growth to be achieved within sustainable parameters. Given that advertising is often the first point of exposure for potential tourists, transparency regarding permit regulations that support sustainable tourism and manage tourist expectations is important. To assess transparency, textual information and photographic content from 17 South African government permitted BBWW company websites were analysed. Regulation-related information in textual content was low across all websites (5-28% of sentences extracted); 91% of photographs containing whales, and 55% containing dolphins, appeared non-compliant for distance of vessel to animal. These results demonstrate that misleading advertising may result in tourist expectations that conflict with legal requirements for a sustainable industry and can place operators under pressure to provide the experiences as advertised. Solutions to address this problem and promote ecological sustainability in the industry include clearer advertising guidelines in permit regulations, standardised resources supplied to industry for advertising and tourist education, and greater awareness of advertising effects and how to positively promote regulations in website content. ARTICLE HISTORY
... Marketing materials of commercial tour operators and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) inevitably highlight the dramatic, the unusual and the special in an attempt to draw attention and 'click-troughs' to their business or cause and thus might generate unrealistic tourist expectations of wildlife encounters. For example, when media show close interactions or dramatic animal behaviour, such as breaching in cetaceans, it can create an expectation of always being able to see and experience such behaviour (Hoyt & Parsons, 2014). Unrealistic expectations may also be influenced by wildlife researchers and professional wildlife photographers who commonly showcase their work on social media. ...
Capturing images has long been recognized as influential in wildlife tourism experiences. With the ubiquity of Web 2.0 in people's everyday lives, images can now be shared instantaneously via social media platforms. The quest for 'photo-trophies' that can be liked, shared and reproduced may influence how tourists behave around wildlife. Trends such as the 'wildlife selfie', which requires closeness to unpredictable animal species, is gaining popularity and may contribute to harassment of wildlife. This paper reports on qualitative research involving tour providers offering in-water encounters with marine wildlife and their experiences of the influence of social media on their clients' behaviour. Semi-structured interviews with operators at three case study sites in the South Pacific revealed a consistent theme of 'pushy' behaviour displayed by skilled wildlife photographers and social media 'influencers'. Such behaviour fosters the potential for wildlife harassment and provoking animal behaviour that could pose hazard for people. The operators interviewed identified professional wildlife photographers and influencers being most likely to ignore safety instructions and guidelines. The findings illustrate that investigating operator-client relationships from the perspective of the operator can provide important insights into tourist behaviour. Inappropriate or ignorant conduct can then be targeted through specific communication and management strategies.
... Commercial whale-watching started in 1955 in southern California and was focused on viewing the endangered grey whale migrations passing the coastline (Hoyt & Parsons, 2013). Since the 1980's there has been a rapid global increase of participation in whale-watching tours (O'Connor, Campbell, Cortez & Knowles, 2009) which resulted in this sector experiencing faster growth compared to many other tourism sectors over the past decades (Filby, Stockin & Scarpaci, 2015). ...
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Marine tourism is one of the fastest growing types of tourism worldwide, yet, relatively little is known about individuals who participate in marine tourism activities. It is critically important for marine tourism businesses to know who their customers are as this information will enable them to design a suitable marketing program which appeals to their market segment. Marine tourism businesses will therefore have to develop a profile of their market segment in order to establish who their customers are. The primary objective of this study was to establish a profile for tourists who participated in shark-diving, whale-watching and visits to marine protected areas (MPAs) in South Africa. A further objective was to compare the profiles of the tourists who participated in the selected activities in order to identify differences or similarities between these groups. The selected activities all form part of the leisure category of marine tourism activities. Knowledge of the differences or similarities in the profiles of these groups can help marine tourism businesses decide whether the same marketing program can be directed at all three groups. This knowledge can also be used in directing the identification and development of suitable marketing strategies for attracting and penetration of the market. A descriptive design and quantitative approach was followed and the survey responses of 444 respondents were analysed through frequency distribution and multivariate analysis of variance. Statistically significant differences were found in gender, age, level of education and nationality among participants in the various activities.
Whale-watching is a global tourism industry whose annual revenue exceeds two billion dollars. Australia is a key player in this industry, especially on the east and west coast where humpback whales migrate each year between their breeding and feeding grounds. However, the global whale-watching industry faces uncertainty from changing whale migration patterns, with whales progressively ‘arriving’ at the traditional whale-watching areas earlier than in previous years/decades. If the whale-watching industry cannot evolve with these changing dynamics then the arrival of the whales might be missed resulting in a potential loss of revenue. This social-ecological issue has suddenly been exacerbated by the disruption to tourism caused by the global pandemic COVID-19. In this study, we use a systems modelling framework, which combines qualitative and quantitative processes, to evaluate the social-ecological system behaviour of the whale-watching industry. We apply this systems approach to the Gold Coast, one of Australia's premier tourist destinations and home to a vibrant whale-watching industry. The outcome of this systems assessment is that the efficacy of the whale-watching industry is affected through determinants of both supply (ability to respond to changes in whale behaviour) and demand (attractiveness of whale-watching). Furthermore, the recovery time of all tourism after COVID-19 will take years if not decades.
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The whale has been perceived since the Middle Ages through the curious monster/resource duality, which will remain in Western thought for many centuries, especially since the beginning of its commercial exploitation in the 10th century of the Christian era. In Chile whales were seen as “marine beasts of immense grandeur” which were not hunted in the 17h century, even though those that stranded on the shores were very well used. In the 19th century they were systematically captured to obtain oil, baleen plates, bones and, to a lesser extent, meat. The press of the time picks up a rich imaginary that contains diverse elements: an enormous and fierce animal, therefore monstrous; heroic whalers in a very dangerous activity; a battle between men and cetaceans; and great expectations about the amount of money the whale will generate. But there is also the “very animated show” that involves the presence of “many curious onlookers” admiring “the monstrous whale”. The reference to “the spectacular”, that is, to the attraction that the whale exerts over people, is a very frequent element in the news published in the press.
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Whale watching is the human activity of encountering cetaceans in their natural habitat. It can be for scientific, educational, and/or recreational purposes. The wide variety of whale watching activities includes tours lasting from 1 h to 2 weeks, using platforms ranging from kayaks to cruise ships, from land points including cliffs and beaches, from sea planes and helicopters in the air, as well as swimming and diving activities in which the whale watcher enters the water with cetaceans. Whale watching grew out of the traditions of bird watching and, to a lesser extent, other forms of land-based wildlife watching. The species originally responsible for the development of whale watching was the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus). Whale watching for the purposes of research can be traced back to Aristotle, who spent time on boats and with fishermen in the Aegean Sea. A successful partnership between science and commercial whale watching began in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1975, when Al Avellar of the Dolphin fleet asked Charles “Stormy” Mayo to be his naturalist. This key partnership between science and commerce has determined the course of whale watching, as well as the practice of whale research, throughout southern New England. Despite the competitive atmosphere of commercial whale watching in New England, the researchers and their representative institutions have cooperated in setting up the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog, which is a photo catalog and database covering more than 10,000 individual whales.
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Mass stranding prevention: the effectiveness of herding and acoustic deterrents. (Abstract presented to the 15th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals,. 2002. Behavioural responses of killer whales to whale-watching traffic: opportunistic observations and experimental approaches.
A review of current human behavior and popular media highlights a contradiction in modern cultural perceptions of marine mammals. Campaigns to protect marine mammals and their habitat exist on every continent, and the number of local and national governments involved in legislative agendas related to marine mammals is growing. The recorded history of human interaction with marine mammals began with small-scale direct exploitation in pursuit of vital resources. Preindustrial commercial whaling involved the application of subsistence techniques for the realization of profit rather than direct consumables. These researchers heralded an important shift in scientific focus that accompanied the end of the grand age of whaling during the 1950s and the beginnings of "modern" marine mammal studies in the 1960s. It would be simplistic to point to one central mechanism behind the groundswell of interest in marine mammals that occurred during the second half of the twentieth century. An important influence in the perception of marine mammals by the public during the 1970s was a rapid growth in underwater images of whales and dolphins. The increased display of marine mammals in oceanaria and the growing opportunity to view them in their own world accelerated the idea that industrialized whaling had become a desecration of nature. The most significant demonstration of the cultural importance of marine mammals in modern times is the explosion of interest in excursions to view marine mammals in the wild that has taken place over the past three decades. The commoditization of marine mammals is now reaching a fever pitch with attempts to resume commercial whaling, continued growth in whale watching, increased competition for ocean resources, space-age technological advances in military and corporate attempts to control the oceans, continued destruction of ocean habitat, and the dire threat of global warming.
The gray whale (. Eschrichtius robustus) is the only living species in the family Eschrichtiidae. It is a slow-moving sturdy mysticete, slimmer than right whales and stockier than most rorquals. It attains a maximum length of 15.3 m (50 ft) and its skin is mottled light to dark gray with whitish blotches and heavily infested with barnacles and cyamids, or " whale lice, " especially on the head. Instead of a dorsal fin, the back has a hump followed by a series of fleshy knobs, or " knuckles" along the tailstock. The behavioral ecology of the gray whale is unique among mysticetes, as it is the most coastal; makes the longest migration; calves in warm bays, lagoons, and coastal areas; and is an intermittent suction feeder that regularly forages on benthos, apart from feeding opportunistically on plankton and nekton by gulping and skimming. Once found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the gray whale became extinct in the Atlantic and now is a relict species confined to the productive neritic and estuarine waters of the North Pacific Ocean and adjacent waters of the Arctic Ocean. The eastern population (also called the American , California , or Chukchi stock) occurs in the eastern North Pacific and Amerasian Arctic Oceans, whereas the remnant western population (also called the Asian , Korean , or Okhotsk stock ) occurs in the western North Pacific (off Asia). The western gray whale is now a remnant population close to extinction that occurs off Russia, Japan, Korea, and China and is one of the most critically endangered populations of whales.
Whale watching is an international industry worth more than US$2 billion globally and is currently the greatest economic activity reliant upon cetaceans. However, there is concern that whale watching is detrimental to the target species. Numerous studies have shown that cetaceans exhibit behavioral changes in response to whale-watching boat traffic. Some of these behavioral changes involve inhibiting biologically important behaviors such as feeding and resting. There is convincing evidence for some species that these can translate into population-level effects such as reduced reproductive rates. Whale watching can also cause direct mortality through collisions between vessels and animals. The introduction of guidelines or regulations for whale watching has been the most common method of trying to mitigate the impacts of boat-based whale watching. However, there is great variety in the comprehensiveness of guidelines, and even if operators have guidelines, compliance with them can be poor. Compliance might be improved if guidelines have legal under-pinnings, with monitoring and enforcement or via pressure to comply by other operators and whale-watching tourists. Simple guidelines may be more easily complied with that ones requiring specialist knowledge. Likewise undertaking simple measures, such as establishing temporal or spatial “refuges” protecting biologically important areas (e.g., feeding grounds) where whale-watching activity is prohibited, could be an appropriate mitigation strategy.