Member's Area
Indian Ocean Rim Association
You are here:


'Building Sustainable Whale and Dolphin Watching Tourism in the Indian Ocean Region'
Sri Lanka, 24-26 February 2016

The Agenda can be found here.

The Press Release can be found here.

Additional materials can be found here.


IORA Member States summarised the discussion from the workshop as follows:

  • Whale and dolphin watching tourism is one of the fastest growing marine tourism sectors. When managed well, whale and dolphin watching tourism creates economic, social and ecological benefits such as inclusive economic growth, livelihoods and job creation for communities while also encouraging the safeguarding of marine species and habitats.
  • The Indian Ocean is rich in marine resources and provides habitat for many marine mammal species.
  • Whale and dolphin watching tourism exists across the Indian Ocean Rim region, ranging from established and mature industries to nascent or emerging industries considering a new form of tourism development, and can contribute to the Blue Economy.
  • The behavioural ecology of whales and dolphins, as long-lived, slow and late reproducers and socially complex species, renders them particularly vulnerable to human disturbance and can result in them experiencing detrimental effects from tourism operations, if not carefully managed.
  • Cetaceans face a series of threats including ship strikes, competition with fisheries, bycatch, chemical and noise pollution, marine debris and climate change. 
  • Member States face common challenges in managing their whale and dolphin watching tourism, including lack of capacity and resources including  for compliance and enforcement. Member States identified possible solutions ranging from regulations to community education.
  • The importance of sustainable management of the industry based on best available science and tourism standards.
  • The importance of education, training and compliance in this industry to protect cetaceans and deliver quality nature-based tourism products. 
  • Tourists have better, more satisfying experiences when operations include an education component and treat the animals and the environment with respect.
  • Recognised the expertise contained within the IWC's conservation and scientific committees and Murdoch University and the potential to collaborate with and provide capacity building to IORA member states.
  • This topic is relevant to IORA's six priority areas and its focus on the Blue Economy, and is a topic deserving of further regional collaboration as several countries have recently commenced or will commence whale and dolphin watching tourism.
  • Sustainable whale and dolphin watching tourism can provide valuable direct and indirect positive impact for economic empowerment of women and youth with significant spillover effects into the tourism sector value chain.

The Workshop participants:

  • Support sharing information and expertise among IORA Member States to sustainably manage whale and dolphin watching tourism operations to ensure the economic, social and ecological sustainability of this industry by:
    • Sharing information, best practice, experience and expertise including through online communication on the IORA website.
    • Sharing international expertise by collaborating with key actors such as the International Whaling Commission which may be able to assist with mitigation of threats to cetaceans, capacity building and facilitate access to funding and development organisations.
    • Undertaking capacity building and training for Member States.
    • Acknowledging the need for baseline scientific information to inform sustainable management.
    • Helping develop and disseminate education materials such as brochures to tour and boat operators for tourist education.  
    • Establishing an IORA sustainable whale and dolphin watching tourism network
      • Member States to identify a Dolphin and Whale Tourism Watching Focal Point, and up to 6 representatives including tourism, marine and fisheries representatives, as well as academic/expert and industry representatives
      • IORA Secretariat is requested to develop a terms of reference for the Network including mechanisms and priorities.
      • Requests the IORA Secretariat, with support from Member States, to circulate examples of guidelines and legislation from Member States and other examples as a way of sharing existing mechanisms and providing guidance to other Member States who have not yet developed their own mechanisms.
      • Proposes the IORA Secretariat, with support from Member States, publishes a short brochure summarising the case studies from this workshop to be shared on the IORA website to showcase Indian Ocean expertise and experience, and which will also be shared with international partners such as the IWC to inform the Whalewatching Handbook which is a compendium of international best practice.
      • Seeks further opportunities to strengthen scientific, academic and technical cooperation including connecting whale and dolphin researchers in IORA Member States and collaboration such as the IORA journals, Indian Ocean Academic Group (IORAG), IORA Centre of Excellence in Ocean Sciences and the Environment, and with the International Whaling Commission and Murdoch University.