Using long-term ecological research to promote sustainable whale-watching practices in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia




Stevenson, Kira Kim

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Whale-watching is a major tourism venture in developed and developing countries around the world. The management and conservation of this industry is dependent on social, economic, and ecological factors, but long-term ecological research is often absent. In this study, I present an example of a mature whale-watching location where research on all three variables is available. The University of Victoria’s Whale Research Lab has studied gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island for over 25 years and I use this information to form the basis for management recommendations that promote sustainable whale-watching practices and other resource use. To do this, I review how whale-watching is managed in Canada, B.C., and Clayoquot Sound, including the legislation and voluntary guidelines that are currently in place, and previous recommendations that have been made. I then analyze how whale-watching is conducted in southern Clayoquot Sound. I quantify boat behaviour with respect to whales and present six indicators of industry pressure that have been related to cetacean disturbance. The 2012 and 2013 seasons had significantly different numbers of whales present, and this was reflected in the fleet behaviour. Whale-watching activities do not appear to alter gray whale foraging efforts between seasons. Results indicated that both industry pressure and vessel behaviour with respect to whales changes depending on the season and the biological dynamics that influence whale presence. Finally, I synthesize findings of the Whale Research Lab in conjunction with my preceding chapters and present five management recommendations to all stakeholders with a vested interest in the continuation of sustainable whale-watching practices in Clayoquot Sound.



whale-watching, resource management, tourism, ecology, Eschrichtius robustus