History and context
One theme that has repeatedly arisen from other case studies featured on this site is the need for effective legally enforceable regulations to manage whale watching activities. The table of guidelines and regulations featured on this site provides multiple examples of regulations that different countries or local regulatory bodies have put in place. These regulations are often the product of multiple phases of planning and discussion between the competent authorities and other stakeholders, including scientists, NGOs, local communities, and commercial whale watching operators or associations. However, it is also important to consider the roles of enforcement agencies in implementing regulations and ensuring that they are effective in practice as well as on paper. While the section of this website focusing on monitoring and enforcement summarizes some of the methods that can be used to ensure compliance with regulations, this case study highlights the practicalities of enforcement operations with the aim of helping managers design regulations that are truly practical and feasible to implement.
This case study is based on interviews with two enforcement officers who have conducted whale watching compliance operations in two completely different regions – Hawaii and Australia. Despite the different contexts, they have surprisingly similar stories and lessons to share. As enforcement officers they have been involved in three main categories of enforcement activities:
- Overt surveillance in a marked vessel that operators and the general public recognize: This generally acts as a deterrent, as operators who see the enforcement vessel are likely to make sure they comply with regulations while in view, rather than risking a fine or other consequence.
- Covert surveillance usually conducted by an officer who boards a whale watching vessel as a fee-paying tourist, and uses the opportunity to collect information on the operator’s compliance with regulations. These are generally more effective as a means to monitor true rates of compliance with guidelines and determine whether regulations are being successfully implemented.
- Prosecution of infractions reported by third parties: In such cases, an interested stakeholder (e.g. another operator, a recreational boater or member of the public) may have filed a complaint or provided evidence of an infraction, which the competent authority must investigate, and if possible bring to trial.
Below we share a few examples and tips from the field, along with some lessons learned and recommendations for all those involved with management of whale watching and monitoring and enforcement of regulations.