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The modelling and assessment of whale-watching impacts

New, Leslie F. and Hall, Ailsa J. and Harcourt, Robert and Kaufman, Greg and Parsons, E.C.M. and Pearson, Heidi C. and Cosentino, A. Mel and Schick, Robert S. (2015) The modelling and assessment of whale-watching impacts. Ocean and Coastal Management, 115. pp. 10-16. ISSN 0964-5691

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Abstract

In recent years there has been significant interest in modelling cumulative effects and the population consequences of individual changes in cetacean behaviour and physiology due to disturbance. One potential source of disturbance that has garnered particular interest is whale-watching. Though perceived as ‘green’ or eco-friendly tourism, there is evidence that whale-watching can result in statistically significant and biologically meaningful changes in cetacean behaviour, raising the question whether whalewatching is in fact a long term sustainable activity. However, an assessment of the impacts of whalewatching on cetaceans requires an understanding of the potential behavioural and physiological effects, data to effectively address the question and suitable modelling techniques. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the viability of long-term whale-watching, as well as logistical limitations and potential opportunities. We conclude that an integrated, coordinated approach will be needed to further understanding of the possible effects of whale-watching on cetaceans.