Summer is here and vacation travel plans are upon us. If whale and dolphin watching are not part of your annual calender - for sure, this is the year to start. Going whale watching is fun, educational and a great way to escape the summer heat. It's also an really important way to put your money where your mouth is (and let's face it, our world is driven by money).
As the meetings of the International Whaling Commission are beginning tomorrow - it's more important then ever to support the non-lethal use of whales. Now some of us probably don't think we have to come up with a "use" for whales to justify their existence. But to realistically acknowledge the day and age which we live, it would be fool hearty to not point out to the world that whales are worth more alive then dead.
Economically we need whales alive, ecotourism is ever expending. Whaling is always troubling – but especially in countries where whale watching and whale hunting overlap. So when a overseas tourists spend over US$4.1 billion in Norway in 2008, 1,800 times more than the total value of whale meat landings that year - it leaves one scratching their head as to why they would kill the thing that people are coming to see. Even more alarming, in Norway, tourists had paid to go out on a whale-watching boat but instead witnessed a whale hunt. In Japan whale watching and whale hunting occur at the same time of year only a few 100 kilometers apart. Iceland and Norway (whaling nations) is economically dependent upon tourism and whale watching. Japan, Iceland and Norway all have to subsidize their whaling
We also need whales alive for the good of our environment - whale poop and pee provide important nutrients to the oceans on which we all depend and helps oceans absorb CO2.
Going out to see whales alive and well in their natural environment is also a direct rebuttal to the captive industry. One of SeaWorld's biggest come backs when long-time trainer Dawn Brancheau tragically died last winter was that captivity is one of the best tool to connect people to the oceans. Needless to say, we disagree. Admission to SeaWorld is $70, whale watching in New England is $40.
There are conservations benefits to whale watching too. Learning about the other anthropogenic threats facing whales besides whaling (vessel strike, entanglement, and pollution) and what every single person can do to make a difference, not just for the whales but for all ocean inhabitants and ourselves who depend on healthy and functioning ocean systems.
WDCS emphatically supports whale watching, we also want to ensure that it's done correctly without disturbance to the whales and dolphins. Which is why we in partnership with NOAA's Fisheries Service created whale SENSE, a collaborative, voluntary program recognizing commercial whale watching companies committed to a higher standard of whale watching from Maine to Virginia.
So now that you're convinced that you are going whale watching this summer - make sure you go with a company that's certified as a whaleSENSE company and look for the logo. Same for dolphin watching in the Southeast US - look for the DolphinSMART logo