Subject: Re: Whale Watching Guidelines

Plett tourism (plett.toourism.co.za@pixie.co.za)
Mon, 14 Apr 1997 17:16:56 +0000

Dear Capt. Benko,

Many thanks for your response to my request for comments on the development
of whale watching worldwide. After years of working in various marine fields I
am in the early stages of a Ph.D. on marine mammal (non-consumptive)
utilization along the east coast of South Africa using the guidelines laid down in 
the Montecastello workshop. Although my expertise in this field is limited I 
was invited to attend the whale watch symposium on the 4th April regarding 
the relaxation of South African pertinent to this subject. Unfortunately my
invitation came a little late but I still thought it a good idea to 
send the request for comments on `real world' experience that are not always
forthcoming in published material.

I received a number of very interesting replies from a number of angles including
the cynical to the great exponents of whale watch tourism but generally most 
replies were very positive and the criticism received was generally directed at 
set instances.
After discussing whether bbww should be instigated at all, the meeting then 
sought to explore the possibility of setting up an experimental whale watch 
industry and a group (inc. Ken Findlay) was formed to look into this further. 

There is one question however, that I still find difficult to resolve in my own 
mind.
There is a lot of talk, quite correctly I feel, about the flexibility of approaches, 
of minimum distances and behavioral zonation zones (e.g. calving 
etc.) reducing the impact boats have on whales. Do you thiink that operators are
generally mindful of the rules and how often do they actually break them (%wise) 
(regarding boats approaching whales and not vice-versa) when a paying public
expects ever more from their experiences. Also what 
actually stops other pleasure boaters with no whale watch experience from 
following the tours out to the whales? Does any country really have an active 
policy of prosecution when rules have been violated?
Do you think that the operators consideration of the whales wanes with time and 
increased competition? 
Although people argue that dolphins and whales have some control over each 
given situation, it is my experience that a boat is more that capable of following 
an animal unless it really does dive long and swim hard.  

Our fledgling industry has formed its own association to promote its intentions.