RESPONSIBLE WHALE WATCHING

With the increasing popularity of whale watching operations questions have arisen regarding possible affects whale watching vessels may have on cetacean. We don’t know much for sure but as a precautionary measure IceWhale has set out to promote responsible whale watching.

Currently there is limited regulation and mechanism in place to monitor the whale watching operations in Iceland, especially from an animal welfare point of view. IceWhale therefore initiated the development of this code of conduct with the aim of

  • Minimising impact on cetacean for the future and the sustainability of whale watching operation in Iceland.
  • Ensuring the best possible encounter, both for animal welfare and passenger enjoyment.
  • Increasing development, understanding and awareness of appropriate practices when watching cetaceans.

It was signed on 20 February 2015 after an operators workshop in Reykjavík. During it’s formulation IceWhale was assisted by staff involved in whale watching and international experts. It is also based on previous work by NGO’s, guidelines, codes of conduct and general rules from whale watching operations around the world.

IceWhale expects members to participate in assessing the value of this newly created code of conduct. In the future it will be adjusted to maintain its relevance as better understanding of human cetacean interaction emerges. Some IceWhale members even facilitate research on the subject by offering their vessels as a platform for marine biologists studying the behavioural impacts of whale watching operators.

As of 2016 IceWhale has partnered with Orca Guardians, a conservation nonprofit dedicated to the protection of orcas in Iceland, to develop a species specific code of conduct for orca watching. This will be based on IceWhale’s current code of conduct, research and field observations from Snæfellsnes peninsula.