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Providing an international focus for the whalewatching sector

An increasing number of people are taking whalewatching cruises and flights.   Whalewatching (a term that includes all cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises) and the tourism it brings, presents an economic opportunity for many communities around the world.  Whilst the circumstances of these communities are often very diverse, the goal of sustainable whalewatching, conducted in harmony with healthy cetacean populations in a healthy environment, is a shared one.  The IWC is working with scientists, governments, NGOs and the whalewatching industry, to assess threats, identify and share best practice, and support responsible, sustainable whalewatching.

The IWC Scientific Committee is studying the potential impact of repeated whalewatching on individual whales, their populations and their habitats. This complex task requires examining both short- and long-term impacts. Factors to be considered include changes in behaviour and habitat use that may potentially affect feeding, reproductive success and even mortality rates. Particular attention has been paid to critically endangered and data deficient populations. This ongoing research has led the IWC to develop principles and guidelines for whalewatching which have helped guide the development of whalewatching regulations around the world.  Measures introduced include limits on vessel numbers, speeds, approach distances and time spent with whales, and a variety of training and permit schemes.

Over fifty countries have produced national guidelines or regulations for whalewatching.  Whilst issues can vary between species and locations, there are common strands of good practice which the IWC is drawing together to provide advice that can inform and complement national legislation.  103 different documents have been drawn together and analysed to establish best practice.

The IWC Whalewatching Working Group has produced a five year whale watching strategy that has been adopted by the Commission, and is developing a Handbook for Whale Watching.  This will be a web-based, living and evolving tool. It will support whalewatching operators, national and regional regulators, and others involved in the sector, to ensure whalewatching is sustainable now, and as it develops into the future.

Click here to read the IWC Guidelines and Principles

Click here to read the IWC 5 Year Strategic Plan for Whale Watching

Click here to read the IWC Compilation of Worldwide Whale Watching Regulations