WCA Partner instrumental in bringing in mandatory measures to protect whales in Antarctica.
Members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) have unanimously voted in mandatory measures to prevent whale strikes in the cetacean-rich waters of Antarctica. WCA Partner Ted Cheeseman of IAATO member operator Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris and co-founder of Happywhale has been a driving force behind the proposals.
At its annual meeting IAATO members agreed to new measures that would instruct member operators to commit either to a 10kn speed restriction within a specific geo-fenced time-area on the Antarctic Peninsula or, for members who have a whale strike mitigation training program, an extra watchman on the bridge to monitor and record sightings within the geo-fenced time-area. The compulsory measures will formally take effect on July 1 in time for the 2019/20 Antarctic travel season which begins in October.
Since the commercial ban on whaling in 1982, nearly all humpback whale populations in the southern hemisphere are recovering, some at rates near their biological maximum. With these increasingly whale-rich waters comes an increased risk of whale strikes in areas of high aggregations such as those used for feeding, breeding, raising young, socialising and migrating – all of which are essential for survival, and population growth. In committing to these new mandatory measures, IAATO member vessels are supporting the return of this charismatic species.
During the 2018/19 Antarctic season, Happywhale – an initiative that tracks individual whales throughout the world’s oceans – recorded over 900 humpback whale sightings in Antarctica comprising 333 known individuals. This is compared to 700 sightings the year before. Analysing photographs collected by Happywhale it is clear that many whales are suffering from ship strikes around the world and while in Antarctica evidence of these kinds of injuries is still quite rare, IAATO members want to keep it that way!
When asked about the motivation behind these proposals, Ted said “I was motivated by the ethic of responsible whale watching promoted by the WCA” and that he is “extremely proud of IAATO for taking this bold step to reduce risk to whales, even while very little is known about the actual distribution of whales on the Antarctic peninsula”.
Said World Cetacean Alliance CEO Dylan Walker “Tourism can be one of the most powerful forces driving ocean conservation and sustainable change, but to achieve that the industry must be sustainable itself, and that means having a minimal impact on wildlife such as whales, whilst maximising the environmental message for tourists.”
The WCA commends the IAATO member’s commitment to safe, environmentally responsible travel and is proud of its Partners who have helped drive these measures forward – Dylan Walker, WCA CEO