It is not uncommon to find communities where perhaps only the most dedicated fishermen were even aware that whales and dolphins were present in their coastal waters until a whale watching industry was initiated. As whale watching and related tourism services begin to generate income and employment for the community, operators can be transformed into local heroes and celebrities – the providers of bounty for all. At the same time, through a new-found awareness, community members can become champions of the whales and dolphins upon which their economy relies, and protectors of their habitat.
Champions and defenders
In order for local communities to become true champions and defenders, they will need to truly see and experience the benefits of the whale watching tourism taking place. While the success of a whale watching industry can bring prosperity and well-being to a community, it can also lead to jealousy or misunderstanding. Like any long-term relationship, operators need to work to ensure that they nurture and maintain a good standing with their local community, and that relationships with local stakeholders are mutually beneficial. Maintaining positive relationships with local regulating or tourism authorities, hotels and resorts, fishing communities, tourism booking agencies, and town councils or business groups can ensure that an operator’s business will benefit from their support when needed, and contribute to an overall positive attitude toward whales, their conservation needs, and the potential benefits they can bring.
Fostering positive relationships
There are many ways to foster positive relationships, and these will vary from one culture and context to another. However, a number of examples can be found in the experience of whale watching communities around the world. Operators can: