Responsible Whale Watching Tours Practises in Sri Lanka
Friend of the Sea, the international certification for products from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, has developed a unique sustainable whale watching certification program.
Whale watching is a practice which provides participants with an emotional experience allowing them to see whales and marine mammals in the wild.
Some operators however could impact the environment and the whales populations when not following some basic rules. Interference, noise, pollution, generated by the whale watching boats can put in peril or disturb marine mammals.
For this reason, and aware of the fast growing and widespread whale watching industry, Friend of the Sea has developed, with the support of international scientists and conservationists, a set or requirements for sustainable and responsible whale watching.
Operators must operate under a permit granted by an appropriate authority
1. They cannot use sonar systems (No sonar system)
2. Must respect Approach and Watching Zone Time, distance and speed (Approach and Watching zone)
3. Does not carry out Swim with activities (No Swim with)
4. Must respect Closed seasons and areas (Closed Season and Areas)
5. Have to implement training and awareness sessions (Training and awareness sessions).
Compliance with these requirements is verified onboard by independent certification bodies and undercover spotchecks.
Sri Lanka is a very important area for Whale Watching because of the frequent presence of Blue and Sperm Whales.
Three companies have undergone audit and have obtained the Friend of the Sea certification following corrective actions. They can now inform their clients and tourists that they have been found compliant with responsible whale watching practices.
Environmentally aware customers will in turn learn about Friend of the Sea seafood certification and will be able to purchase sustainably when back home.
Friend of the Sea hopes that more and more whale watching operators will join the project and undergo the Friend of the Sea independent third party audit. This will create a drive in the industry to promote responsible practices and in turn protect the whales and other marine mammals.