What Is Whale Watching?

Whale watching is the observation of whales in their natural habitat (similar in a way to bird watching) which involves  spectators standing at the end of a pier or on the deck of a boat with binoculars to watch these marine mammals as they live undisturbed in their natural habitat.

While whale watching is most commonly used as a form of recreation, it also serves as an educational and scientific way to study the species.

Whether used for recreation or for scientific research whale watching has become an international hobby and can be seen in many countries including the US, Spain, Britain, Australia, New England and Alaska among several other popular tourist locations.

In fact since its inception the whale watching industry has become a billion dollar annual business employing thousands of people and serving millions of whale watchers each year.

This is extremely important for developing countries looking to bring awareness to their nation as well as helping a variety of economies by bringing in additional capital to countries that can benefit from the additional tourism boost.

Among the many different recorded whale species some of the most popular species for those who enjoy whale watching include the blue whale, humpback whale, bowhead whale, gray whale, fin whale and minke whale among others.

While whale watching spotters may also look out for killer whales, bottlenose dolphins and other dolphins that may be found among the group of whales they’re observing.

As commercial whaling (the hunting of whales for oil and other resources) has come to an end in most countries, whale watching as a tourist attraction has grown significantly.

Not only has whale watching become extremely profitable it has also brought awareness about the current state of endangered whale species to millions of people and some whale watching businesses and organizations use part of their income to help fund whale conservation’s and awareness programs aimed it helping these marine mammals recover from their endangered status while improving laws to further protect these important animals and prevent them from facing possible extinction.

History of whale watching

The history of whale watching (in the US) can be dated back as far as 1950 where the Carbillo National Monument in San Deago was declared a public place to observe gray whales in their natural habitat.

Also in San Diego the first tourist excursions (boat rides) began and cost tourist $1 to take a boat trip into the ocean for an opportunity to watch whales up close.

Since then whale watching has become an annual billion dollar tourism business employing thousands of workers and serving millions of whale watchers each and every year.

Over the years whale watching has also become a popular method used to attract tourist to developing countries in the hopes of bringing in more capital for economic stimulation and growth.

Due to the rapid growth of whale watching as a commercial business and tourist attraction some concerns about the rate and growth of whale watching have become a popular debate.

Several concerns have developed including the concern of ships, technology and people interrupting the whales natural habitat, putting whales at danger and interrupting their natural breeding and migration patterns which could lead to further endangerment of the species.

Others view it simply as a form of recreation and/or for scientific exploration and support the views of protecting whales, while also stating that whale watching hasn’t caused any disturbance to the whale species and may even help by causing economic stimulation.

The International Whaling Commission

In 1993 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) did an assessment on whale watching activities, and in 1996 adopted a resolution and set up general guidelines for whale watching which compiled whale watching regulations from around the world to ensure the safety of whales while allowing whale watching to remain a recreational activity for tourists.

Some of these regulations include maintaining an appropriate distance from whales as not to cause any interruption to their natural habitat and limitations on how to and how not to interact with whales.

Additional resources and credit: