How is the WCA Encouraging Responsible Whale Watching

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A blog composed by Bright Young Things, a Brighton-based student team, and the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA)

In the first of this series of blogs we discussed what is responsible whale watching and why it is important. Now we want to look at what the World Cetacean Alliance is doing to support and encourage responsible whale watching.

The WCA is the world’s largest Partnership working to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises. Through cooperation the partners of the WCA aim to conserve and protect cetaceans and their habitats in the world’s oceans, seas and rivers to ensure their continued health and survival.

Main image: Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari

The Top Responsible Whale Watch Operators

Responsible Whale Watch Partners must comply with standards set by the WCA and strive to meet its jointly agreed objectives. Such standards are a great way for travellers to assess whether any operator is responsible. The WCA standards include to:

  1. Publicise and use guidelines for safe approach
  2. Be a valuable as a learning experience
  3. Meet the expectations of customers
  4. Minimise impacts on the environment
  5. Emphasise all research undertaken

Being a partner of the WCA makes a clear statement about an operators intentions towards responsible whale watching.

The WCA continues to develop criteria to improve standards of cetacean tourism worldwide. Its responsible whale watch partners demonstrate leadership and best practice and through the Alliance are able to influence the wider industry to follow suit.

The Power of the Network

The WCA is the only membership based organisation that represents and speaks for responsible whale and dolphin watching companies around the world. Through cooperation its partners share best practice and ideas, collaborate and cross-market each other, benefit from links with tour operators and provides advice to the wider industry.

As WCA Partner Amanda Stafford from The Whale and Dolphin Connection puts it, being a WCA partner means ‘not working in isolation, I am part of a band of other whale watching tour operators with shared goals and interests. This reinforces our influence and our commitment to bring about change and our capacity to bring about change through the bigger and more authoritative voice of the WCA’.

Amanda goes onto say that a major bonus of the WCA is that there is always ‘an expert, someone who has already walked in the trail, in the membership and a lot of shared knowledge. There are always good examples of models that are working well that partners can mimic’.

Promoting Responsible Whale Watching and our Partners

The WCA works hard to promote responsible whale watching and its partners in a variety of ways including through its website, social media platforms and the world’s first responsible whale watching app

WCA Partner Angie Gullan from Dolphin Encountours states that the WCA ‘creates an awareness for responsible whale watching’ and that they have benefited from being a partner by means of ‘sharing knowledge and promoting responsible whale watching’.

Partner Nic Slocum of Whale Watch West Cork says the WCA ‘promotes the advantages of responsible whale and dolphin watching and brings it to the attention of a wider audience’.

“the WCA act like a planetary loudhailer for marine conservation and responsible tourist organisations. ”

BBC Wildlife Magazine


The WCA has established and runs the Whale Heritage Site initiative, an accreditation scheme that recognises the best global destinations for responsible whale and dolphin watching. The scheme also recognises destinations that appreciate the culture and heritage surrounding cetaceans, and will ultimately assist tourists make the right decisions about where to watch whales and dolphins responsibly.

In addition, the WCA is working in partnership with Blue Flag as an advisory body for their Sustainable Boat Tourism Operator accreditation. Blue Flag, operated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) has been expanding its award’s to include sustainable boat operators such as whale and dolphin operators. The WCA quickly became an important partner in establishing criteria for awarding Blue Flag to cetacean watching operators. This new award will be a complementary scheme to the Whale Heritage Site initiative.

Training Responsible Guides

Through its Responsible Whale Watch Guide course the WCA aims to equip participants with the key communication skills needed to become a whale and dolphin watching guide.

The course covers modules such as an introduction to cetacean identification, research including citizen science initiatives, communication and presentation skills and responsible whale watching standards. Successful participants become certified Responsible Whale Watching Guides and are added to an exclusive forum of qualified guides from where WCA partners and affiliates can select suitable candidates for internships and guiding opportunities.

In the field, guides can work alongside experts and researchers to educate the public about cetaceans, the marine environment and raise awareness about conservation, whale watching standards and the work of the WCA and its partners.

So through promoting and supporting its responsible whale watching partners, developing and improving the standards of cetacean tourism, providing advice and accreditation and training guides, the WCA is actively developing and implementing new concepts for responsible whale watching.

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