Monday 28. November 2011

Can Whale Watching Have Negative Impact on Whales?

Today, Monday November 28, at 16:00, Sara Martin, a current student in Coastal and Marine Management, will carry an informal presentation of her current research project, focusing on sustainable whale watching tourism. The aim of the presentation is to provide insight into the status of her work and discuss the preliminary findings. The presentation can also be considered as a part of the master's program's enhanced knowledge transfer.

Sara's project focuses on assessing the impact of whale watching activities in Skjálfandi Bay, N-Iceland. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of whale watching on the animals themselves. Sara examines the development of this industry, both domestically and abroad. Furthermore, she analyses data that has been gathered over a three year period, and can shed light on the behaviour of the animals in close proximity to the whale watching boats.

Sara hopes the study will reveal if there is a need for further management. One outcome of this study is propose certain guidelines suitable to support a sustainable whale watching tourism.

Sara's advisor is Brad Barr, an instructor at the Coastal and Marine Management program. Brad will be present today.

The presentation, which will be in room 1, will be conducted in English. Everyone is welcome to attend.

A preliminary summary of the study can be found below:

The whale watching industry has experienced much growth and development throughout the world. The advantages of this wildlife-based tourism activity are numerous, as whale watching provides socioeconomic benefits and opportunities for education, conservation, and scientific research. There is concern, however, that the activity of whale watching is negatively impacting the animals and, as a result, this topic has been investigated intensely over the past 20 years. Guidelines and Codes of Conduct (CoCs) have been developed in many places worldwide to promote sustainable whale watching practices.

In Iceland, whale watching started in 1991 and is now the fastest growing industry in the country. However, it remains unregulated. To gain some insight into how the unmanaged whale watching activities of Iceland compared to those of other countries, the behaviour of whale watching vessels on Skjálfandi Bay, in Northeast Iceland, was monitored and analysed.

The study, aiming to assess whale watching activities in Skjálfandi Bay, was conducted between 2009 and 2011. Data was collected through land based observations in 2009 and 2010, while whale watching boats were utilized to collect data from sea in 2011. Three aspects of the whale watching activities were investigated: distance of approach; speed of vessel; and the number of vessels around a particular animal or group.

This assessment will help to achieve the overall goal of determining whether or not there is a need for management, and identifying what guidelines or codes of conduct would be most effective at making the whale watching activities in this region more sustainable.

Sara Martin conducting field work in Húsavík
Sara Martin conducting field work in Húsavík