Whale watching Tourism is one of the fastest growing tourist industries in Sri Lanka and in the world. Last year the global Whale watching tourism industry revenue hit the 2 billion dollars mark and Sri Lanka too is today a hot destination to watch these gentle creatures and is cashing in on this boom.
According to a study, Whale Tourism will increase by 10 per cent this year (2012). Last year around 13 million tourists paid to watch whales in their natural element which generated 2.1 billion dollars and created 13,000 jobs worldwide. Statistics of Whale watching tourism and its contribution to the economy is yet to be measured but it goes without saying, the impact is significant.
Some animal rights activists are very happy with the founding of the study and hopes this will help in preserving whales around the world. Animal Right Activist Alicia Summers said “I hope now governments and people will realize that whales are more beneficial if they are alive and kept at their natural habitat. Hopefully Whale killings around the world will slow down with this study”.
There are some who are concerned about the risks of whale-watching. International Whaling Commission has move forward with a “five year plan” to study economic benefits and ecological risks of whale-watching.
In Sri Lanka for instance, there is very little government interventions and not enough regulations to ensure that Whale Watching doesn’t become dangerous to the whales as well as to the tourists. There are alarming pictures and statistic to show many private run operators risking the proximity to these creatures just to boost the thrill for their tourists. Until activists and other pressure grounds are able to convince authorities to implement safety measures there are many steps and precautions tourist too can make to avoid uncomfortable and unnecessary encounters:
1) Choose a reputed operator for your whale watching excursions. The Sri Lankan navy offer an excellent whale watching excursions in Galle that is comfortable, safe and they adhere to standards and precautions.
2) If your operator does go ‘too close to comfort’ to these whales, ask them to step back. Request them to keep a safe distance (in fact, insist of it!).
3) Always request to see licenses of the operators and standard of the boats used.
4) Check to see if the boats have adequate safety equipment such as life jackets, emergency radio signaling and ask them to demonstrate safety measures in the event of any unfortunate accidents.
Researcher at the University of British Columbia believes that Whale watching will encourage people living in the coastal areas around the world to protest killings of the whales. Whale Tourism could be very beneficial for the coastal areas in developing countries where fisheries are in decline.
In the long run Whale watching tourism, will eventually convince people that its worth more to keep whales alive than killing them. For instance, in New Zealand in a coastal town called Kaikoura, the local economy surged due to whale watching when they received more than 100,000 tourists per year through whale tourism. When more destinations around the world will develop Whale Tourism, killing will slow down and in Sri Lanka for instance, we will realize it’s worth adopting safety measures to ensure the longevity of these animals in our waters.
Some analysts also believe that tourists may boycott travelling to places which allow slaughtering of Whales which can also force authorities to rethink regulations.
Sri Lanka Navy http://whalewatching.navy.lk/