Whale watching is a hot topic these days. Observing cetaceans in their natural habitat can have many benefits, including the collection of important scientific data, education and conservation, and protection of populations for ecotourism rather than lethal takes. However, it can sometimes have negative consequences for the animals. Whale watching can disrupt behavior, cause stress, and sometimes even injuries to the animals.
So how do you choose a responsible whale watching trip? How can you watch cetaceans in the wild while minimizing your impact as much as possible?
The International Whaling Commission and Convention For Migratory Species have created a comprehensive guide to whale watching around the world.
From their about page:
“This Handbook is designed to support managers, regulators, operators and anyone interested in whale watching. It is a flexible and evolving tool incorporating international best practice, educational resources and a summary of the latest, relevant scientific information. Content has been drafted and sourced in consultation with IWC and CMS affiliated scientists and managers from around the world, and is reviewed each year at the meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission.“
This guidebook includes detailed information about: management of cetacean populations, information on species targeted in certain regions, interactive maps, whale watching regulations throughout different countries, and much, much more. It also includes information directed at operators so they can make their tours safe for the animals and guests while also remaining successful. Most importantly, it guides potential whale watchers through the process of choosing a responsible operator and ensuring they make the least impact on the animals and contribute to conservation measures.
I am a passionate and enthusiastic supporter of responsible whale watching. When done properly, it has minimal impact on the animals and provides many, many benefits for education and lifelong conservation. I am so thrilled that scientists have collaborated and created a robust guide to whale watching backed by peer-reviewed research. It will be so beneficial to have this valuable information easily accessible to the general public! It can be very hard for an average member of the public to sort through operators and determine which one is best and most responsible choice when there are so many companies out there. This handbook will make this process so much easier and I am so grateful!