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.
A gray whale surfaces beside a whale-watching boat off the coast of the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Photo © IFAW
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.
A humpback whale breaches off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Photo © IFAW/ C. Carlson
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
Posted in Environment, Final Project, Interview Project, Issues in Science, Public Engagement, Science in the News, Uncategorized
Tagged Ecosystems, environment, group E., research, science news, UBC, whale watching, whales, whaling
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.
Photo: thaths on flickr
Is there anything more incredible than the rainforest canopy? Not very likely. The rainforest canopy – the dense area containing the majority of trees branches – is home to some of the greatest biodiversity, or biotic variety, on earth. And where else can you find a complete ecosystem with soil, megafauna, and what is estimated to be half of the world’s plant species – all off the ground?! However, what we know about these incredible “biodiversity hotspots” is very little, as rainforest canopies are among the world’s least understood ecosystems.
So unparalleled is the rainforest canopy in mystery and intrigue that naturalist William Beebe pronounced that, “another continent of life remains to be discovered, not upon the Earth, but one to two hundred feet above it, extending over thousands of square miles.” That was back in the early 1900s, and despite much research being done since then, this quote still holds true.
Among what has been discovered, The EarthWatch Institute details some stand-out research findings including the discovery of the first herbivorous spider; work suggesting that perhaps 6 million insect species exist on earth; and the uncovering of thousands and thousands of species previously unknown to us, many of them endemic – meaning they are found nowhere else in the world – to their respective rainforest canopy.
Where else can you find animals as curious as the pink-eyed katydid newly discovered in Papua New Guinea:
- Photo: Naskrecki/iLCP
or the Malagasy Red-bellied Lemur?
- photo: BBC
Unfortunately, the well-being of much of the world’s fascinating and mysterious rainforest canopy ecosystems is threatened by human activities. Work by William F. Laurence, published in a 1991 issue of Nature, warned that human activities causing forest fragmentation are compromising the health of these unique ecosystems. A study by Erika Styger and fellow scientists published in a 2007 issue of Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment looked at the large-scale degradation caused by slash-and-burn farming techniques. Additional research keeps pointing at humans as the cause of increasingly unhealthy rainforest canopy ecosystems.
Scientists are currently working to understand the biological and chemical processes at work within the canopy in order to gain a better idea of how we can protect these ecosystems. Some are working to document canopy species composition and interactions while others are expressing concerns over the ability of the rainforest canopy to continue supporting its species in the face of climate change – an area that is beginning to get a lot of research attention. Thus, work is being done to better understand what is happening in the mysterious and marvelous rainforest canopy. Whether we can protect the very-worthy-of-protection rainforest canopy ecosystems before their health is globally compromised remains to be seen.