Boat-based whale watching encounters
Short-finned pilot whales are in the focus of whale watching excursions at several locations. Southwest off Tenerife, Canary Islands, up to 1 million whale watchers per year leave the ports of Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas, Los Gigantes and Playa de San Juan. Due to the coastal and year-round presence, short-finned pilot whales are the main target species of the local industry. Next to Tenerife as the main pilot whale spot worldwide, this species can be watched off the Azores, Japan and Hawaii though at these locations pilot whales are not the main target species. Boat-based whale watching can cause short-term impacts threatening the biological fitness of the species. Boats often approach too close and as a result disrupt the whales' behavior. Furthermore boats cause underwater noise disturbance due to motor and propeller noise.
Click ...here... to see a pilot whale group-vessel interaction from the underwater perspective (.mov file with 3.6 MB)
Click ...here... to hear underwater sound disturbance produced by a single vessel masking pilot whale call communication (.mp3 file with 1.2 MB)
Click ...here... to hear underwater sound disturbance produced by a single vessel masking pilot whale click vocalizations (.mp3 file with 1.6 MB)
On the other hand, boat-based whale watching can represent a high educational value. For many people, it is an emotional moment to see a whale or dolphin in its natural habitat and such a natural experience can result in ecological awareness. An ecological and sustainable whale watching industry has to implement a code of conduct in order to reduce potential negative impacts and should embedd such a trip in an educational program.