Unexpected Vulnerabilities: Synthesis of Cetacean Vulnerability to Whale Watching in the Caribbean
Tourism in Marine Environments
CETACEAN CONSERVATION; MARINE TOURISM; PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE; TOURISM MANAGEMENT; WHALE WATCHING
Whale watching (WW) has the potential to support cetacean conservation through environmental education, and by providing economic incentives to maintain cetacean populations. In order for positive, sustainable outcomes to be fully realized, however, the industry should be designed to prevent and mitigate its negative impacts on cetaceans. Industry growth is outpacing context and species-specific research, necessitating analyses of the current knowledge base to guide the present development of WW. The Caribbean is a key region for such research due to the scale, growth rate, and variety of WW options. An index of Caribbean cetacean vulnerability to the known negative impacts of WW was developed using an in-depth literature review, as such an index could be used to inform WW decision-making at both industry and regulatory levels in conjunction with context-specific data. This analysis revealed that both target and nontarget species are vulnerable to the negative impacts of WW, and highlights the urgent need for species-specific regulations and heightened caution surrounding WW observation of calves and during breeding seasons.