Subject: Whale Watching and Education Conference

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 5 May 1997 14:14:46 -0400 (EDT)

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Date: Mon, 5 May 1997 12:45:56 -0400 (EDT)
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Workshop on the Educational Values of Whale Watching
Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA
7-12 May, 1997

First Announcement

Sponsored by
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW); and World Wildlife 
Fund and Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society 

This is a Draft

1. Introduction

 Whale watching has become a world-wide industry and is now accepted as a
"sustainable use" of cetacean populations, compatible with Agenda 21 of the
1992 Rio de Janeiro UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).
 Although generally characterized as a recent phenomenon, the idea of
"non-consumptive uses" of whales, especially the concept of whale watching,
was first brought to the attention of the international scientific community
at the Mammals in the Seas Scientific Consultation in Bergen, Norway, in
1976.  The International Whaling Commission (IWC) first took notice of whale
watching in 1983 and 1984, but most recently and directly at the 1993 Kyoto
meeting which produced a resolution, followed by the 1994 Puerto Vallarta
meeting, which established a Whale Watching Working Group to discuss this
benign use of whales and smaller cetaceans.  At the 1995 IWC meeting in
Dublin, the Working Group presented a number of papers and reports for
consideration by the Commission, and whale watching was further discussed
during the IWC's Scientific Committee meetings. 
 It is generally assumed that whale watching carries with it an educational
component.  However, this assumption has not been widely discussed, nor has
there yet been a serious attempt to quantify and examine the educational
activities involved in whale watching around the world.  An authoritative
examination can yield guidelines, ideas and methods for enhancing public
awareness of and education about cetaceans, the oceans, fisheries, marine
mammals in general, management and conservation.  Such information could then
be shared and further developed and adapted to assure humane, responsible and
meaningful whale watching everywhere the activity is undertaken.
 Most assessments of whale watching focus on the monetary returns, which are
important, substantial and growing.  A paper by Erich Hoyt, The Worldwide
Value and Extent of Whale Watching 1995,  presented to the IWC meeting in
Dublin, notes that the number of countries now practicing whale watching has
more than doubled since 1992, from 31 to 65.   Further, Hoyt points out that
revenues from whale watching are now US $504 million (UK L311 million),
nearly doubled since 1991.   However, there may well be a natural limit to
the growth of this industry -- a limit imposed by environmental factors such
as the carrying capacity of the whale watching sites, need for protection
and/or altered behavior of the cetaceans being watched,  and limits to
onshore development.   As more and more countries begin to regulate whale
watching, the focus will rightly be on quality rather than quantity, and
education therefore becomes one of the most important parts of the whale
watching activity.  
  In the long view, it is probable that the most valuable thing   about whale
watching is its potential to educate people of all ages to appreciate, value
and understand marine mammals and to connect humans in a dramatic way to
another species and to the sea.  
 This workshop therefore has a significant role to play in the development of
whale watching as a benign "sustainable use" of cetaceans.  The small group
to be convened will examine the following questions and topics, among others
still to be developed.  Experts and those directly involved in education and
public information about whale watching will be invited to prepare papers and
to join discussions so that the report from this meeting will be of value to
a broad range of disciplines, including government officials, tour operators,
scientists, teachers,  non-governmental organizations, naturalists,  and

 In the discussion which follows, the following definitions are meant:
whale watching - the activity of specific journeys by sea or by aircraft or
from shore to view, photograph and interact with cetaceans of all species; 
education - information about cetaceans of a specific nature, such as
biology, behavior, migratory patterns, identification studies; and public
information about cetaceans provided by tour operators, naturalists or
others, of a general nature, including paraphernalia such as brochures,
badges, maps, guide books, and posters;
academic education - courses for credit from some academic institution which
use whale watching as part of the regular coursework;
ecotourism - commercially planned and executed tours specifically to view
wild and wilderness areas and wildlife.

Although these categories tend to overlap in some aspects, they are also
separate in others, and by keeping this in mind a clearer view will be

 Education is here viewed in a broad context: not just what is taught/learned
in an informal way aboard whale watching vessels, but how whale watching can
be used in a formal educational setting, how ecotourism planners and
operators can educate themselves as well as their clients, and how the whales
can (once again) be the flagship species to teach a wider environmental

Content of the Workshop
  Whale watching is recreational activity (except for academic education,
where the journey itself is a part of classroom coursework) .  For most
people, it is a day at or on the sea, generally  a boatride, something
"different" to do.  As more and more millions of people go whale watching it
becomes evident that not all of them are highly motivated to see whales out
of some conservation interest, as may have been the case in the earliest days
of the industry.   
 Whale watching is a kind of safari.  And, like a safari,  it has a sense of
adventure about it because the whole reason for the activity is to observe a
wild animal in its own territory.  In educational terms, this is wonderful.
 People expecting an adventure have a heightened awareness, a light heart, an
anticipation of pleasure and thrill.  Such audiences can be excellent
 In organized whale watching, it is customary for there to be a guide, a
scientist sometimes, or a naturalist, or the boat owner or captain.  These
guides are the educators.  It is fairly safe to assume that whatever they say
is taken as truth by the whale watchers. 

Assessment of Current Educational Efforts
 It will be a task of the Workshop to propose,  discuss and reccomend the
kinds and quality of  education which is necessary and beneficial on whale
watching cruises.    
 The content of currently used educational materials will be evaluated.  The
scientific component of these materials will be assessed for relevance and
 Participants will be encouraged to bring samples of whale watching
educational materials from their areas.  

Assessment of Ecotourism
 Where should the information come from to inform ecotour operators and
guides?  Both tour operators and tour guides will be discussed from the
viewpoint of the education they provide and get. Is this an opportunity for
NGOs and for organizations such as the IWC to advise and suggest and supply
information?  To what extent can scientists be involved in the information
 New Zealand has a system of licensing for whale watching tour operators
which includes a mandate, in order to secure a license,  to provide the
government with an indication of how the operator would manage
education/information.   The Workshop will look at the New Zealand material
as a possible model for other whale watching venues.  There will be
discussion of how it might be modified for states or areas with less
sophistication of information transfer.  A discussion of general regulations
is NOT anticipated nor encouraged. 
Academic Usefulness of Whale Watching
 Whale watching as an extension of the classroom will be considered, both the
hands-on academic curricula and as enhancement or "reward" for classroom
studies.  Such new techniques as use of the Internet and other computer
programs will be discussed.
 The Workshop will consider how formal curricula might be transferred among

The Role of NGOs
 NGOs have, from the beginnings of whale watching, been involved in the
encouragement and expansion of the industry.  What should their continuing
role be?  The Workshop will seek to identify areas of education where NGOs
could be especially useful.

 A report will be generated from this meeting, with a draft presented the
last day for discussion and approval.  The post-workshop uses of this report
will be discussed and defined.