Subject: Re: Whale watching
Wed, 12 Mar 1997 19:02:10 GMT+1200

Question:My name is Jaclyn and I am an undergradute student at the University 
of Massachusetts at Amherst.  I am currently working on a research project
about the effects of ecotourism on animals, and I was thinking of focusing
on whales and the whale watching industry.  My question is whether you are
familiar with whether the whale watching industry has negative or positive 
effects on the populations and health of whales and their ecosystem.  If you
have any information on this topic, or know of anyone who could help I
would greatly appreciate it.

Dear Jaclyn,
As commercial whale watching is a relatively new industry there is not 
much known about the effects of these businesses on the whales. It is 
important to remember that different species of whales respond in 
different ways to boat traffic depending on area, age, and behavioural 
state. In New Zealand we have one company which runs sperm whale 
watching tours in Kaikoura. The effects of approaching the whales were 
studied by Jonathon Gordon in 1991. He found that head on and fast 
approaches resulted in avoidance behaviour by the whales.

Erich Hoyt has recently written a report titled " The worldwide value 
and extent of whale watching 1995 (Whale and Dolphin Conservation 
Society, Bath, UK. pp. 36)". I outline a brief summary of his findings:
 - A total of 65 coutries and overseas territories have at least some 
form of commercial whale watching.
 - Since 1991, the number of people going whale watching has increased 
an average of 10.3%/year. Direct revenues have increased from US$77 
million in 1991 to $122.4 million in 1994.
 - most of the some 80 species of cetaceans are targetted by whale 
watching tours. The most common focal species of whales are humpback, 
grey, northern and southern right whales, blue whales, minke whales and 
sperm whales.
 - 66% of whale watching occurs in the USA where it started in 1955. It 
is increasing most rapidly in Brazil, Spain, Japan, Argentina and New 

All of these coutries have different laws, regulations and guidelines to 
protect the whales and to ensure there is research to assess the levels 
of disturbance.

Here are a few references you should be able to find in the USA which 
may be of help.

Baker, C.S. and Herman, L.M. (1989). Behavioural responses of of 
summering humpback whales to vessel traffic: Experimental and 
opportunistic observations (Tech. Report No. NPS-NR-TRS-89-01). US Dept. 
of the Interior National Park Service.

Beach, D.W. and Weinrich, M.T. (1989). Watching the whales: Is an 
educational adventure for humans turning out to be another threat for 
endangered species? Oceanus, 32(1):84-88.

Duffus, D.A.(1996). The recreational use of grey whales in southern Clayoquot Sound, Canada.  
Applied Geography 16(3): 179-190.

Kruse, S. (1991). The interactions between killer whales and boats in 
Johnstone Strait, B.C. PP; 149-159. IN: K. Pryor and K.S. Norris (eds). 
DOlphin Societies: Discoveries and Puzzles. University of California 
Press, Berkeley and LA, CA.

Nathalie Patenaude