ECOLABEL – IN FAVOUR OF A RESPONSIBLE WHALE WATCHING
Creation project of an international Ecolabel for a responsible whale watching
with a first implementation in Goa and Odisha, India
Interview of Ivan Martin
project manager of Ecolabel for the SCS
RTS Couleur 3 – 10 December 2018 (10 minutes)
Listen to the interview (in French)
IUCN report on stranding at Goa, in partnership with Terra Conscious (download PDF (English version)).
Our partner in India receives a ‘Wildlife Service Award’
Support the launch of the Ecolabel by participating in our Crowdfunding operation.
Issues related to unregulated whale watching
Whale and dolphin watching is a widespread activity in many coastal countries. Unfortunately, this practice is not always carried out in a responsible way, which has several negative effects on cetaceans and their environment. The negative impacts of whale/dolphin watching, which have been demonstrated by several scientific studies are:
Noise pollution from nearby boats (engines) and sometimes noisy tourists.
Behavioural changes (e.g. difficulty to hunt or mate, and for social interactions) in the presence of whale watching boats targeted marine species, especially for too close approaches.
Stress increase (e.g. for mothers with calf close to boats).
Collisions with boats resulting in severe injuries or death of the animal.
Waste sometimes thrown into the sea by tourists.
Such disturbances can have long-term effects on individuals (behavioural changes, injury, death) or on populations (abundance, distribution, demography).
Purpose of the Ecolabel
The Swiss Cetacean Society has decided to develop an Ecolabel that will be awarded to operators who meet demanding standards on how to practice responsible whale/dolphin watching. On the one hand, we believe that a label enables conscious tourists to make more enlightened decisions when choosing certified operators respectful of codes of good conduct and, on the other hand, it motivates operators to acquire it in order to highlight their commitment to respect the environment. Operators wishing to obtain this label will not only have to respect strict approach codes, but also provide information on cetaceans, their environment and their conservation.
Dolphin watching in Goa and Odisha
The first implementation of the project is taking place in Goa (India) through our collaboration with the local organization Terra conscious working with one of our SCS members directly in the field starting in January 2019. A study conducted by WWF India has shown that dolphin watching boats tend to get very close to dolphins, to chase or encircle them, sometimes even cutting off their path and affecting their natural behaviour. In addition, there are hundreds of boats, hence the need to launch our project in this geographical area as soon as possible. The species observed in Goa is the humpback dolphin of the Indian Ocean. Another implementation will also be done in Chilika lake, Odisha, where the Irrawaddy dolphin is continuously stressed by dolphin-watching boats.
Two potentially intrusive behaviours observed in Goa
A boat is less than 10 meters, so too close to a group of dolphins
A boat is cutting the road of a dolphin
Humpback dolphin of the Indian Ocean (Sousa plumbea)
This cetacean of about 2.8 meters in length, classified as an endangered species according to the IUCN Red List (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), is a victim of its habitat. Indeed, being an exclusively coastal animal, this species is dependent on this environment and is constantly disturbed by the many human activities, including dolphin watching. The species cannot escape these nuisances by fleeing offshore as the pelagic areas are not adapted for its survival and is therefore forced to stay near coasts and human activity.
Terra Conscious is a Goa-based organization that offers ethical tourism activities and participates in and manages several conservation projects for marine life and its environment. Since 2017, this organization has been offering workshops to raise the awareness of fishermen and tourist operators about dolphin conservation issues, and to teach them the codes of good conduct for the approach of animals. That’s why SCS will work with Terra Conscious to implement the label in Goa.
Crédit photo pour cette page:
image de fond d'écran et du chapitre "Dolphin watching à Goa" : © Terra Conscious
image du chapitre "Problèmes liés au whale watching non réglementé" : © SCS Ivan Martin, Coordinateur SCS pour le projet Ecolabel pour whale watching responsable
image du chapitre "Le Dauphin à bosse de l'Océan Indien" : © Swiss cetacean society-SCS