12 November 2018

Whale and Dolphin Weekly is out!


Whale and Dolphin Weekly is out…

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Codes of Conduct 2013

Whale and Dolphin Watching Guidlines 2013

Nic Slocum and the Whale Watch West Cork team have spent many years reviewing  codes of conduct for boat based interactions with cetaceans from around the globe.

We have compiled the most comprehensive Code of Conduct for the interaction between boats and cetaceans in Irish waters. This Code of Conduct is reviewed every year and updated where necessary based on first hand experience of the interactions we have each year with the many species we encounter off West Cork with Whale Watch West Cork and abroad with Whales Worldwide.

Nic Slocum has been watching whales and dolphins from boats for over 25 years and has been running Whale Watch West Cork for nearly 10 years. He runs overseas whale watching tours to Baja, Maui and Patagonia and is an outspoken advocate of responsible and sustainable whale and dolphin watching. He is the Chairman of the Steering Committee of The Responsible Whale Watching Partnership

Little is known about the nature of human cetacean interaction and unregulated exposure to whale watching tourism may have a detrimental impact on cetaceans. There is no mechanism in place in Irish southern coastal waters to monitor the impact of whale and dolphin watching operations on either migratory or resident animals. This requires whale watch operators to maintain very rigid standards and adopt a highly responsible mode of operation in order to reduce negative impact to a minimum.


Whale Watching Guidelines…

Version 2013

As the more responsible protagonists within the global industry have expressed the need for a more formal approach to the development of whale watching activities, a plethora of guidelines for the interaction of boats and cetaceans have been produced, many of them only voluntary. Some, like those in Ireland, have been incorporated into a formal publication. This requires commercial and recreational boat users operating in Irish waters to adhere to a minimum set of guidelines when they encounter whales or dolphins.

Educational Value of Whale Watching…

Whale Watch West Cork is committed to the educational value of whale and dolphin watching in enabling the sharing of the wider marine conservation message with as many people as possible, especially the young. We also provide a platform for research and the gathering of routine information that will help in the wider understanding of whales and dolphins in Irish waters.

Responsible Whale Watching…

Whale Watch West Cork is a “RESPONSIBLE” whale and dolphin watch operator who strongly adheres to the statutory guidelines. However, following many years of whale and dolphin watching from boats we believe these guidelines to be insufficient at the species level. Whale Watch West Cork has conducted an assessment of both statutory and voluntary guidelines and codes of conduct around the globe and reviewed the findings of our own research. As a result we have developed a Code of Conduct that incorporates the Irish statutory guidelines as set out in Marine Notice 15 of 2005 but also includes that which we judge to be a minimum requirement for the interaction of boats and cetaceans at the species level in Irish waters. As we gather more information and make further conclusions from our research we will adjust our Code of Conduct accordingly.

Code of Conduct for Recreational and Commercial Boats when Interacting with Cetaceans in Irish Waters

1) When whales or dolphins are first encountered, craft should maintain a steady course.

  • When practical stop the vessel or assume a “no wake speed” to determine whether they are feeding, travelling or prospecting for food. Assess what direction they may be moving in. Never cross the path of cetaceans attempting to cut them off or anticipate their moves. This applies to all species encountered.
  • Never approach animals at 90 degrees to individual animals or groups or head on or directly from behind. This applies to all species. Common and bottlenose dolphins will however, frequently approach boats of their own volition from a head on position and boats should be brought to a standstill until they have engaged.

2) Boat speed should be maintained below 7 knots.

  • We recommend all boat interactions with cetaceans to be carried out at tick over or “no wake” speed or less. A “no wake speed” is usually around 4 knots.
  • Ensure propeller revolutions are reduced to a minimum. This is very important with unguarded propellers. Particularly important when some dolphin species engage the boat.
  • When leaving the field of interaction to a distance of at least 400 meters boat speeds should be no more than 5 knots.
  • NEVER make rapid accelerations TOWARDS or AWAY from cetaceans however far away they may be.

3) Do not attempt to pursue whales or dolphins encountered.

  • Marine mammals should NEVER be pursued under ANY circumstances. This applies to ALL species.
  • Never split up groups of cetaceans. If you find yourself inadvertently in this position stop the boat and remain stationary with engine ticking over until the animals have moved away. This applies to all species.

4) In the case of dolphins, they will very often approach craft and may engage in bow riding. Always allow dolphins to approach a boat rather than attempt to go after them.

  • If dolphins engage voluntarily and bow ride be very vigilant, especially for young and adolescent animals as they may be less experienced than adult animals around boat bows, keels and propellers.
  • If there is any swell on the water and dolphins are bow riding always attempt to travel downwind or in the same direction as the wave train to avoid rapid “up and down” bow movements associated with heading into wind and waves.

5) Maintain a distance of at least 100m from whales.

  • Our research findings strongly indicate that 100 meters is often close enough to influence feeding behaviour patterns in both minke and fin whales. We therefore maintain distances of 150 meters during minke and fin whale interactions in order to minimize disturbance unless animals pass closer to the boat of their own accord during engine off “passive” viewing.

6) Maintain a distance of 200m between any other boats in the vicinity.

  • With minke and fin whales we try to establish at least 3-400 meters distance between whale watching craft when more than one boat is present during an interaction and encourage other boats to do the same.

7) Attempt to steer a course parallel to the direction whales or dolphins are taking.

  • With some dolphin species, especially the common dolphin, they will frequently actively engage the boat and bow ride to the front and side. Always travel in the same direction the animals were moving in when encountered. Extra vigilance should be exercised if very young and adolescent animals are present.
  • Never make sharp, sudden alterations to course when dolphins are bow riding.

8) Do not corral whales or dolphins between boats.

  • If this inadvertently happens due to the whale’s movements the boats should be stopped in the water with engines at tick over until animals have moved away.

9) Special care must be taken when young calves are seen – do not come between a mother and her calf.

10) Successive boats must follow the same course.

  • All approaches to a viewing area when another boat is present should be on the side opposite to any animals present. If there is any doubt use your radio and talk to the other boat/s.

11) Boats should not spend more than 30 minutes with whales or dolphins.

  • If there are two boats present at fin or minke whale interactions we recommend time limits of 15 minutes with an individual or group. We do the same in the presence of all dolphin species. In the case of engine off “passive” encounters we may remain in the field of interaction for up to 30 minutes if the animals remain in the area of their own accord.
  • During common dolphin interactions we limit interaction as follows: Traveling groups with young and adolescents and groups of feeding adults 15-20 minutes. Feeding groups with young and adolescent animals 10-15 minutes.
  • All boats should limit their cumulative time within an area in which whales or dolphins are present or thought to be present, to 30% of the scheduled tour time. This would be around 75 minutes for a scheduled tour of four hours in length.
  • All boats should stick rigidly to time limits. This will reduce the cumulative impact of many vessels on animals present and demonstrate consideration to other viewers, the environment and ABOVE ALL, the whales and dolphins being viewed.

12) DO NOT attempt to swim with cetaceans

  • Never attempt to touch animals or feed them.
  • Never encourage the boat Captain to get closer to animals and dissuade others from doing so politely. The best whale watch operators are those who abide by a very strict code of conduct and are thoughtful of the animal welfare issues and the environment. They are frequently those who have the best sightings.
  • Make as little noise as possible when you are in the presence of cetaceans. Sound travels furthest through water and can sound very loud to aquatic animals. When safe engine off encounters may yield some of the most memorable encounters with cetaceans.
  • During photography with all marine mammals flashes should be turned off.
  • All sonar devices (depth sounders, fish finders) should be switched off when a vessel is in the vicinity of whales and dolphins. These acoustic reduction measures are addressed as a precaution against noise pollution.
  • Always be aware of signs of distress. If you think animals are distressed leave the area of interaction immediately and very slowly.
  • Whenever a vessel is upwind of and in the vicinity of whales, engine exhaust emissions should be minimized by shutting down one or more engines if it is safe to do so.

Cousteau launches global alliance to save the whales again!

Jean-Michel Cousteau

Cousteau launches global alliance to

save the whales again!

 Charities and businesses from around the world form ‘world cetacean alliance’ in an overdue new partnership for whales and dolphins

In 1982 we thought we had ‘Saved the Whale’ when  in Brighton, UK, 42 world governments met at the Hilton hotel and took an historic vote to cease killing whales.  Yet today, despite years of campaigning, 1000 of these animals die daily from causes such as fishing by-catch, pollution, plastics, undersea mining, ship strike, whaling, and the captivity trade. Whales and dolphins (collectively known as cetaceans) are in trouble.

Now a group of organisations and dedicated individuals have joined forces to form a new network to represent these charismatic animals and bring together all who fight to protect them.

Led by Honorary President Jean-Michel Cousteau, the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) launches as a partnership of charities, whale watching businesses and individual advocates from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, UK, and the USA.

“Without collaboration we will achieve nothing more than a drop in the ocean”, explains ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, who has campaigned for ocean conservation for decades as an environmentalist, educator, and film producer. Mr Cousteau continued: “The World Cetacean Alliance is a unique opportunity to combine our collective energy, knowledge, and expertise in order to protect whales, dolphins, and their habitats.”

The Alliance believes everybody deserves a say in the important decisions that affect whales and dolphins, and will involve the widest possible stakeholder community, and especially the public, in all of its agreed actions. Even the Alliance’s name was chosen by a public vote.

WCA Partner Dr Ingrid Visser of the Orca Research Trust explains: “If the public knew that we didn’t already have a global network working together to protect whales and dolphins I think they would be shocked! In the past campaigns have often been disjointed and have typically lacked support from other organisations. As a result they usually have low impact, or fail altogether. The World Cetacean Alliance is our best chance in years to change all that; it’s a very exciting opportunity and we owe it to cetaceans to make it work!”

The Alliance begins with experts and the public mapping their ‘Areas of Concern’ for whales and dolphins around the world. This free online survey will identify and map priority issues affecting cetaceans, and each and every person that submits a map will be making a real difference. Every time the public circles an area they are concerned about, that place gets HOTTER. The hotter the place, the more pressure the WCA will be able to apply to get protection in that location.

As part of this the WCA is targeting three locations in need of immediate action. The first is New Zealand, home to the last 55 Maui’s dolphins, the most critically endangered dolphin in the world and threatened by commercial fishing practices. Second is one of the planet’s few remaining wildernesses, Antarctica; where the Ross Sea needs protection from commercial exploitation. Thirdly, the island of Tenerife, where wild orca ‘Morgan’ must be saved from an inhumane life in captivity.

The Alliance faces huge challenges but this does not daunt Dylan Walker of Planet Whale, the organisation that facilitated its creation. Said Mr Walker: “I am proud to be a part of this new network of organizations and individuals with a deep, collective determination to protect whales and dolphins. By working together we know we can achieve so much more than in the past. With a collective focus and a positive outlook, we will turn the tide before it is too late!”


For further information please contact:

Dylan Walker

Secretariat, World Cetacean Alliance

Planet Whale

2a Church Road, Hove, BN3 2FL. UK.

Tel: +44 (0)1273 355011

Cell: +44 (0)7900 471490