The case studies featured on this site provide examples of a range of issues related to the management and regulation of whale watching. While it is easy to recognize the need for regulation, it is often challenging to know how to introduce regulations where none have existed before, or how to change management strategies if the industry outgrows the measures already in place. Those responsible for managing whale watching in areas where whale watching has developed quickly may be wondering how to “put the genie back in the bottle”. A number of researchers who have studied management strategies promote an adaptive management model – one that is reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis in relation to observed pressure on the target whale or dolphin populations1-4. This monitoring and review may require collaboration with researchers who can design reliable studies to measure the (potential) impact of whale watching activities on the target populations and help determine the limits of acceptable change (LAC) or other measures that can be used to indicate whether current measures are effective or need to be adjusted to prevent negative change2,3.
There is no one-size-fits-all management strategy that will work for every whale watching industry. A modelling study conducted by Pirotta and Lusseau in 20155 showed that different management strategies and tools – either used singly or in combination could be effective in allowing at least some wildlife tourism businesses to thrive and the focal wildlife population to survive (even if in lower numbers). However, in the model, a complete absence of management resulted in the extirpation of the target population of wildlife, and as a consequence, a collapse of the tourism industry that depended on it5.
Below is a summary of a number of management strategies and tools that can be used individually or in combination with each other, referencing case studies that illustrate how these strategies have been used in various parts of the world. These are grouped into three main strategies (voluntary codes, certification or labelling schemes or legally enforced regulations), followed by more specific management tools that can form part of these three main strategies. In most cases, these strategies and tools can be combined and are by no means mutually exclusive: