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Whale watching might be an economically and environmentally feasible way to replace the whaling industry, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. Andres Cisneros, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, says whale watching has the global potential to become a $2.5-billion industry and support 19,000 jobs.
We interviewed Andres to discuss the global whale hunting controversy and how coastal countries can profit from whale watching in this video.
We further discussed with Andres the importance of whales in the ecosystem in this podcast.
Whale watching is more than sitting on a boat and viewing just whales. It is going out into the natural environment of whales and viewing all the marine species who share the water with the whales. It has significant educational and environmental benefits and provides an outlet to study the whales scientifically. There are also economic benefits both locally and globally. Whale watching has the potential to expand the tourism market, which will promote all the local businesses and restaurants. Jobs are created when locals are trained as guides. They can combine local knowledge such as traditional encounters with the whales with scientific knowledge about the whales.
Whale watching as an alternative to whaling is an idea being promoted around the world. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) wrote up a global proposal for whale watching as a sustainable alternative. They estimated that the whale watching industry profited 1-billion dollars in 2001. Recent findings by Andres Cisneros from the University of B.C. found that whale watching could potentially profit 2.5 billion dollars worldwide. His model estimates the value of whale watching could be worth double the amount compared to 10 years ago if countries begin to expand their whale watching industry.
Regulations are being put in place to make sure whales and their environment are respected. The IFAW is one of the main groups who promotes responsible whale watching. Responsible whale watching is a global code of conduct for how whales should be treated. This is to prevent the harassment of the whales and reduce intrusions into their environment by the whale watching boats. There are concerns that a large number of boats and people may disturb whale migration and feeding habits.
There is also a need to change some of the tourism laws to allow local fishermen to act as whale watching guides.This will provide more work and give them an opportunity to expand their employment beyond just fishing. This problem was brought to Andres’ attention on a recent trip to Panama. “I was just down talking to fishermen in Panama and they were saying ‘sometimes the fishing is not very good and we know that there are whales out there and we would like to maybe ask the tourists if they want to pay us and we would take them to where we know there are whales’ and they are not letting them do that right now because of some tourism laws that they have down there.”
Whale watching is a way to use whales as a sustainable resource. It provides jobs and reduces the harm done to whales and their environment. Some countries are realizing the potential profit that whale watching can but many more can join in and stop commercial whaling. There needs to be regulation on this growing whale watching industry to make sure it is practiced ethically.
The UK company Sea Life Surveys has a video on how they run their responsible whale watching trips.
Post created by : Shirley Huang, Kate MacMillan, Irfan Haji, James Kirkbright
Research by a UBC PhD candidate Erika Eliason was recently covered in a number of news media.
The Chilko sockeye is the Michael Phelps of salmon.
This article is targeted for a more general audience is one of the best write ups I found. There is little jargon and the main results/ story are really clearly presented. It also stays true to the original research. Most of all I love the unique spin the author (Elizabeth Pennisi) put into the story with the Michael Phelps analogy.
The CBC’s coverage of the story is equally true to the research though I found the story they told to be less engaging than the Science news article. The CBC story is actually very similar to the UBC media release.
The CBC also featured the story on their radio show Quirks and Quarks (April 2, 2011).
Eliason was interveiwed for the show and overall did pretty well at sounding interesting and not using jargon. Bob Macdonald (the host) did a good job of getting her to better describe the ‘leads’ she used to measure the heartrate of the fish.
The Globe and Mail also covered the story, their article opened with:
Sockeye salmon in the Fraser River are facing such critically warm water in the summer that populations will either have to adapt or die as climate change pushes temperatures even higher, according to new research at the University of British Columbia.
With oceans, lakes and rivers warming worldwide, the study holds a warning that fish stocks are facing increasingly dire environmental challenges.
The globe and mail definitely presents a different main message than the other media. It seems the writer did not fully understand the results of the research or perhaps went too far trying to generalize the results and make a bigger story out of them.
This is probably an indication of where the reporters got their information, the differences in their stories.
Eliason’s paper is about how some Salmon are better suited to climate change, their hearts allow them to survive in warmer water where other species would have difficulty.
The spheres and colors represent the various species and trophic levels respectively, in Nevada Lakes, USA. (Picture Credits: Harper et al. 2005).
Numbers are numbing and data are messy. “Visualization tools can help untangle complexity,” says Eric Berlow—ecologist at Sierra Nevada Research Institute in California. Good visualizations can bring out the details, organize information, and allow scientists to see data in a different way. A computer model called “Niche Model” emerged in the year 2000. It was developed by researchers of the applied mathematics department at Cornell University, Williams and Martinez. Before the model, many ecologists base their theories on “sharply focused” ecosystems with less species, to avoid “clutters” in their study. However, this was problematic since it risks oversimplifying real-world phenomena.
Since 2000, Niche Model injected a healthy dose of complexity into the field of ecology and conservation biology research. By embracing the complexity, ecologists can now generate more accurate predictions that mimic real ecosystems.
I spent much of 2010/2011 working on a research project so thought that I would use this ultimate SCIE300 blog post to tell you all about it.
Last September, myself and four others in UBC Environmental Science were put on team and instructed to research whatever environmental science topic we wanted. We were all broadly interested in researching some sort of ecological impact of the Gateway Program, BC’s massive plan for highway and port expansions. We spent first semester narrowing in on a more specific area. Eventually, we landed our focus on the impacts of increasing commercial shipping traffic on the Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW). This population is designated as endangered by the Species at Risk Act and has been in decline over the past several decades.
This semester, we went into a research paper-reading frenzy on everything and anything to do with killer whales, ships, and killer whales and ships in order to find a manageable gap in the understanding of commercial ship impacts on the SRKW we could work to fill. We soon found that the influence of commercial shipping sound in the SRKW critical habitat — area identified as especially important for the well-being of this species — is little understood.
Also at around this time, a lawsuit led by several environmental groups against the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was in the midst of unfolding. Team Enviro had taken DFO to court for failing to protect the SRKW critical habitat (which DFO is legally obliged to protect), and in December 2010, the court ruled against DFO. Noise pollution — along with food availability and toxic pollution — were among the key areas DFO was found to be failing to address. So, knowing that DFO might be considering doing a better job of safe-gaurding the critical habitat, we wanted to conduct research that could inform recommendations to lessen noise impacts on the SRKW.
We got to work using GIS analysis to map out areas of sound influence in the SRKW habitat, identifying spots where the killer whales’ ability to communicate was compromised. In addition, we mapped out noise pollution scenarios under different ship speed limits to see whether the noise level decreased significantly.
In the end, we found that noise pollution is omnipresent in the SRKW critical habitat; the whales are almost never freed from some sort of interference in their communication calls. Additionally, we found that no realistic speed limit reduces noise significantly. What does this mean for the SRKW? Mostly, our research reiterates that DFO has done a poor job in protecting the home of this endangered species. However, we believe that future research into alternate shipping routes and identification of specific months or times of day for shipping that avoid critical killer whale feeding and breeding times and areas could lead to successful SRKW protection.
See our blog for more info on our project:-)