Whale Watching - New Resource Shows How To Do It Right



Bonn, 30 October 2018 - To encourage best practice in the growing whale watching industry worldwide, two intergovernmental organizations have launched a comprehensive handbook. The free online resource provides information on species, advice on locations and guidance for interested whale watchers regarding responsible behaviour.

The joint initiative by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the UN Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) has resulted in the online Whale Watching Handbook which offers comprehensive, impartial and free advice.

It provides periodically updated country and species information, case studies, and management advice and has been developed in consultation with governments, industry leaders and conservationists around the world. 

Currently with over 100 pages of searchable, cross-indexed online content, the Handbook is divided into easily navigable sections according to user-type.  Designed for use on mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers, the Handbook includes a variety of resources for downloading.

Melanie Virtue, Head of the Aquatic Species Team at the CMS Secretariat said: “It is a great step forward to have such a user-friendly tool for tour operators and visitors alike. I hope it will inform potential whale watchers to find operators who meet the highest environmental standards.”

Key features include an interactive world map which enables users to access information about whale watching in 25 featured countries. A section with annotated illustrations helps users learn more about individual species and identify them in the water. Species factsheets and a database of over 300 peer-reviewed articles provide in-depth content.

An estimated US$2.1bn is spent by 13 million people who go whale watching each year. The new Handbook helps support the industry and its regulators, as well as members of the public, to ensure long-term sustainability for both the whale populations and the communities that benefit from them.

The Handbook initiative was led by the IWC Whale Watching Group, chaired by Ryan Wulff who thanked all those involved in the project:

“I think everyone who has contributed to the Handbook should feel very pleased with the end result.  The IWC and CMS have combined their expertise and global reach to offer tangible support to those involved in the whale watching industry, whether as operators, regulators, or paying customers.  This is a comprehensive resource and it’s an evolving one.  I hope very much to see it grow and develop over the coming years.”

The Handbook was formally endorsed at the IWC biennial meeting in September 2018 and is available now at https://wwhandbook.iwc.int


Notes for Editors

The term ‘whale watching’ is used to refer to boat, aircraft and sometimes also land-based observation of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

The annual whale watching spend and visitor numbers are taken from the 2009 IFAW report. Predictions about the industry’s potential for expansion were made in a 2010 study published in the Journal of Marine Policy.

About the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS or the “Bonn Convention”) aims to conserve aquatic, terrestrial and avian migratory species throughout their range. Several instruments were established under CMS to conserve migratory whales. CMS is an intergovernmental treaty, concluded under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, concerned with the conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale. Since the Convention's entry into force in 1979, its membership has grown to include 126 Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.


About the International Whaling Commission (IWC)

The IWC is the global forum for the conservation of whales and management of whaling.  Established by 15 nations in 1946, today’s IWC has 89 member governments, and a work programme that ranges from bycatch, ocean noise and marine debris to indigenous whaling. 


For more information and expert interviews, please contact:

Florian Keil, Coordinator of the Joint Communications Team at the UNEP/CMS and UNEP/AEWA Secretariats Tel: +49 (0) 228 8152451

Veronika Lenarz, Public Information, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Tel: +49 (0) 228 8152409, press@cms.int

Last updated on 30 November 2018