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Managing the whale-and dolphin watch industry: Time for a paradigm shift

Constantine, R. and Bejder, L. (2008) Managing the whale-and dolphin watch industry: Time for a paradigm shift. In: Hingham, J.E.S and Lück, M., (eds.) Marine wildlife and tourism management: insights from the natural and social sciences. CABI, pp. 321-333.

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Watching whales, dolphins and porpoises in the wild (in this chapter commonly referred to as whale watching) is a rapidly growing commercial industry that includes land, boat and aircraft-based activities (Hoyt, 2001). Unfortunately, management of this industry still ranges from complex and difficult to implement, to inadequate, or completely lacking despite commercial whale watching having been engaged in for over 50 years. Initially, little attention was paid to the potential impacts of commercial whale watching tours, most operators being pleased to take tourists to see whales in the wide and offer an alternative to the commercial whale hunts that were destroying great whale stocks throughout many of the worlds’ oceans. With whale hunting as a basis for comparison, whale watching was never really considered an activity likely to cause harassment or disturbance to wild cetaceans. However, whale watching tourism targets specific communities of animals that are repeatedly sought out for prolonged, close-up encounters. Since the early 1990s, concerns over the potential for detrimental consequences to targeted animals have been raised (e.g. IWC, 1996; Samuels et al., 2003; Corkeron, 2004). Repeated disruptions of breeding, social feeding and resting behaviour have long been speculated to result in deleterious effects on reproductive success, health, ranging patterns and availability of preferred habitat. Emergent research has now revealed that dolphin watching can cause biologically significant impacts on targeted communities, notably by displacing dolphins from critical habitats and reducing their reproductive success (Lusseau, 2005; Bejder, 2005; Bejder et al., 2006a).

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
Publisher: CABI
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