Swim-with-whale tourism is a lucrative and rapidly growing industry worldwide. Whale-watching can cause negative effects on the behaviour of targeted animals. Although this is believed to be particularly true for close-up interactions, such as swim-with operations, few empirical studies have investigated this. In 2016, the Western Australian State Government commenced a swim-with humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) trial in the Ningaloo Marine Park, where 11 commercial licences were granted. The swim-with trial was conducted during both the northern and southern whale migration (August to November), during which we assessed potential short-term behavioural effects on humpback whales to swim-with activities. From both an independent research vessel (n = 300 h) and on-board commercial swim-with vessels (n = 357 h), we collected group-follow data (n = 224) on whale behaviour before, during and after swim-with activities. Behavioural effects on whales were investigated, including movement patterns (deviation and directness index, heading, swim speed), surfacing patterns (dive duration and respiration rate) and occurrence of agonistic behaviours. Results showed that the most common type of vessel approach to place swimmers in the water was in the path of whales (89.8% of interactions). During in-path approaches, vessels travelled significantly faster (P = .002) compared to when approaching from the side (side/line abreast approaches). When vessels approached in the whales' path, whales exhibited horizontal and vertical avoidance strategies by adopting a less predictable path (deviating from 32° to 46°), increasing turning angles away from the vessel (heading from 73° to >90°), increasing swim speeds (from 1.68 to 1.89 ms−1), and decreasing the duration of their dives (from 224 to 194 s). Whales displayed a higher frequency of agonistic behaviours when a swim-with vessel was <100 m distance from them compared to >100 m away (P = .011). Young-of-year calves were present during 19.6% (18 of 92) of group-follows that included swim attempts. To reduce potential impacts on whales and increase swimmer safety, we recommend to avoid in-path vessel approaches, not place swimmers in the water with groups of whales that perform agonistic behaviours, and avoid swimming with young-of-year calves.
Population studies of marine mammals are costly and time-consuming. Nevertheless, many people are happy to use their own resources to apply similar procedures to those necessary to evaluate dolphin populations in dolphin watching tourism. This offers a unique opportunity to collect sufficient data on dolphins to allow for conservation status evaluation by means of Citizen Science, a trending method. Here we crossed information on which species are targeted by tourism and which were lacking important population and ecology data, returning a list of 16 dolphin species which could benefit from dolphin watching tourism to assemble population data with conservation value. We make the case for engaging tourists and tourism agencies in a citizen science effort to raise data on dolphin species. For that, we offer suggestions for dolphin population analyses applicable by non-scientist personal.
Recent decades have revealed profound changes in population leisure paradigms, strengthening social representations attributed to the enjoyment of natural spaces and leading to the growth of informed, demanding, and conscious visitors. Responsible nature tourism assumes a continuous growth in tourism destinations and their marketing strategies. Without the attractiveness of the hot-water islands, the Azores follow a development model towards differentiation factors based on the quality and notoriety of the destination privileging, among others, specialized markets anchored in this territory's main resources and potentialities. The current expression of whale watching in these islands, assumed as one of the main representations of nautical tourism in the region, seems to raise important questions about the real impacts of its practice. This chapter proposes to synthesize this segment as a case study, presenting a successful and recurrent sustainable product and several valorisation strategies to promote its responsible development.
The technology-driven application of big data is expected to assist policymaking towards sustainable development; however, the relevant literature has not addressed human welfare under climate change, which limits the understanding of climate change impacts on human societies. We present the first application of unique mobile phone network data to evaluate the current nation-wide human welfare of coastal tourism at Japanese beaches and project the value change using the four climate change scenarios. The results show that the projected national economic value loss rates are more significant than the projected national physical beach loss rates. Our findings demonstrate regional differences in recreational values: most southern beaches with larger current values would disappear, while the current small values of the northern beaches would remain. These changes imply that the ranks of the beaches, based on economic values, would enable policymakers to discuss management priorities under climate change.
An increasing number of visitors to Juneau, AK, alongside a predictable population of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), has supported the substantial growth of its whale-watching industry. The industry provides benefits to the community through economic gains, while the experience can foster environmental awareness and support for protection of whales and the environment. However, the sustainability of the industry could be jeopardized if increasing whale-watching vessel pressure affects the health of its resource, the whales. This study investigates whether participation in whale-watching tours in Juneau, AK can support conservation of whales and the environment. Participant knowledge, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors were obtained from 2331 in surveys before, after, and six months after a whale-watching tour during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Following a whale watch, the percentage of participants that indicated whale watching as a knowledge source increased (p = 0.022), awareness of guidelines and regulations doubled (p < 0.001), and strong support for regulations increased (p = 0.016). Six months later, these responses remained significantly higher than before the whale watch. Despite knowledge of distance threshold increasing after a whale watch (p = 0.003) and six months after (p = 0.021), getting close to whales remained an important factor in a participant’s whale watch. Participants had a higher likelihood of strongly supporting guidelines and regulations if they indicated that boats can have a negative impact on whales or were aware of guidelines and regulations. Lastly, participants that acknowledged negative effects on whales from boats had higher overall pro-environmental attitudes. This study indicates that incorporating messages that facilitate participant awareness of guidelines/regulations and the purpose of those measures can support conservation and protection of local whale populations through managing participant expectations and ultimately encouraging operator compliance.
Understanding spatial patterns of visitation and benefits accrued to different types of natural and cultural heritage tourists may have important implications for the sustainable management of their destinations. We investigate cultural services accrued to local, domestic and international visitors to the Usumacinta floodplain, a coastal region with one of the highest biological and cultural diversities in Mexico. We combine analysis of social media photographs and high-resolution land cover mapping to identify different cultural services and their association with specific ecosystem and land cover types. Hotspots for international tourists are spatially restricted to well-known and accessible sites. Locals are 2.2–2.5 times more likely than international visitors to be associated with aesthetic appreciation and birdwatching. Locals upload more photographs of coastal lagoons, mangroves, beach and sea. Results are analyzed in light of land cover changes in the region and provide valuable information to decision makers for improved tourism management and conservation strategies.
Coral reefs ecosystems fulfil important ecological functions, but risk degradation not only from climate change but also from increasing demands for the socioeconomic functions they also offer to local communities and international tourism. Coral reef diving tourism is a source of environmental pressure but at the same time represents a source of conservation funding, balancing these pressures. Tailoring the divers' experience to extract increased payments requires insights into the role of diving experiences for willingness to pay (WTP) for the access to dive in the waters surrounding Sipadan. We developed a choice experiment and applied it to a sample of 507 recreational scuba divers at the diving site Sipadan, Borneo in Malaysia. We investigated the role of divers’ most recent and overall diving experiences for their willingness to pay additional diving fees for features related to the conservation status and the diving operations. Results show that a majority of divers prefer lower litter pollution levels in the water and lower density of divers in each dive. When comparing the less experienced divers with the more experienced divers, the latter group express significant preferences over more of the marine biodiversity and recreational attributes of the diving experience. The less experienced group only tended to express significant preferences for fewer of these attributes. We also note that less experienced divers are more likely to have felt crowded and less likely to have seen pelagic species, suggesting, which may, in turn, explain their lower observed WTP.
Management of protected areas is as much about understanding how society values these resources as it is about understanding ecological processes. Yet, in comparison to standard ecosystem monitoring and economic evaluation, social values are frequently overlooked because of the challenge to measure and define them. As marine protected areas are currently the fastest growing protected area type, this article argues the need to incorporate social value assessment in planning and policy decisions to improve ecological and social outcomes. This study surveyed 675 white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) cage-dive participants to investigate how tourists' value the Neptune Islands group (Ron and Valerie Taylor) Marine Park. Applying a value typology previously used in forests, respondents were able to identify with 13 distinct values. Results demonstrate that tourists hold biocentric, indirect use, and nonconsumptive values of the marine park as most important. The relevance of these results as an indicator of tourists' preference for management decisions is discussed.
Tourism represents an important opportunity to provide sustainable funding for many ecosystems, including marine systems. Tourism that is reliant on aggregating predator species in a specific area using food provisioning raises questions about the long-term ecological impacts to the ecosystem at large? Here, using opportunistically collected video footage, we document that 61 different species of fish across 16 families are consuming tuna flesh at two separate shark dive tourism operations in the Republic of Fiji. Of these fish, we have resolved 55 to species level. Notably, 35 (63%) of the identified species we observed consuming tuna flesh were from ostensibly non-piscivorous fishes, including four Acanthuridae species, a group primarily recognized as browsers or grazers of algae and epibenthic detritus. Our results indicate that shark diving is having a direct impact on species other than sharks and that many species are facultatively expanding their trophic niches to accommodate the hyperabundance of resources provided by ecotourism.
Alternative livelihood projects are criticised as having minimal effect on biodiversity conservation. Studies are rare and where success is claimed, outcomes and reasons why projects work, have not been documented. Livelihoods are an essential element of sustainable integrated coastal management, an accepted framework for conserving coral reefs and marine resources in the tropics. It is not known whether alternative livelihood projects contribute to the goal of improving biodiversity conservation through sustainable integrated coastal management. Here, we examine Oslob Whale Sharks, an alternate livelihoods project in the Philippines built on provisioning whale sharks for community based dive tourism. We investigate how Oslob Whale Sharks contributes to sustainable integrated coastal management and whether it has any effect on biodiversity conservation. Using key stakeholder interviews with artisanal fishers, their community, local politicians and government, we found that Oslob Whale Sharks contributes to all nine factors required for sustainable integrated coastal management. Fishers and local authorities report their perception that whale sharks are protected from poaching and finning and destructive fishing has decreased, while fish abundance, pelagic fish species and catch have increased. Our findings further suggest that as there is little evidence that this type of tourism has any negative impacts on the biology or behaviour of whale sharks, Oslob Whale Sharks provides sustainable livelihoods and a delivery mechanism for sustainable integrated coastal management.