Towards responsible tourism for cetaceans


Monday 26 June

Conference auditorium

Welcome to the 4th World Whale Conference

8.30 – 9.00. Registration / reception

9.00 – 9.45 Opening ceremony

Chair: Clive Martin, WCA Lifetime Partner and trustee

Speaker: Nathan Stower, External Affairs and Sustainability team, Virgin Atlantic / Virgin Holidays

Speaker: Dylan Walker, CEO, World Cetacean Alliance

Speaker: James Seymour, Durban / Kwazulu Natal


9.45 – 10.15 Keynote speaker: Cetaceans in Southern Africa – Professor Ken Findlay

As a marine mammal biologist, Ken has been integrally involved in marine mammal research in the Southern African region, in the Arabian Sea region, the Western Indian Ocean and in the Southern Ocean for the last 30 years. He is a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and is a member of both the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group and Sirenian Specialist Group. He was integrally involved in the IWC’s IDCR and SOWER Antarctic survey programmes between 1991 and 2005 and in the IWC’s Comprehensive Assessment of Humpback Whales since 2000. He has a strong interest in ocean acoustics, and demographics of recovering whale populations, particularly blue, right and humpback whales.

10.15 – 10.30. Plan for the week

10.30 – 11.00 Break


SYMPOSIUM 1: Responsible Whale & Dolphin Watching

Conference auditorium

Global best practice for responsible whale and dolphin watching

Chair: Dylan Walker, WCA Secretariat, UK

11.00 – 13.00

The Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watching Symposium will aim to agree a set of ‘Draft’ Global Standards that protect cetaceans in tourism by combining current best practice guidelines, advice from practitioners, and the latest scientific research into one resource. Once completed, the WCA will aim to create an International Advisory Committee for Cetaceans in Tourism to oversee the agreed Global Standards, and seek endorsement for both the Global Standards and Advisory Committee from national and international institutions, regulatory bodies, governments, NGOs, and the travel industry.


Presentation session: Exploring the strengths and weaknesses of current guidelines

11.00 – 11.20 Vince Shacks: General Manager of the Ecotourism Unit at the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA). Vince has managed the South African Blue Flag programme for the past 2 years, and will discuss the requirements for accreditation of the Blue Flag Sustainable Boating Tourism Operators.

11.20 – 11.40 Lloyd Edwards: In 1997 Lloyd started Raggy Charters marine cruises in order to raise funds for the Baywatch Project. Raggy Charters currently holds the only whale and dolphin watching permit for Algoa Bay. Lloyd will discuss the South African whale watch regulations, focusing on what makes them unique in a global context.

11.40 – 12.00 Dylan Walker: As CEO for the World Cetacean Alliance Secretariat, Dylan will present the results of a literature study to compare and contrast whale watch guidelines written by international institutions, including the WCA, and will describe why they are necessary. This will lead into a workshop session to define draft minimum standards and best practice guidance for responsible whale watching.


12.00 – 13.00 Workshop: Exploring existing guidelines, new ideas, and seeking agreement for best practice and minimum standards.


13.00 – 14.00 Lunch break


14.00 – 16.00 Global best practice for in-water encounters with whales and dolphins

Chair: Angie Gullan, Dolphin Encountours, Mozambique

Presentation session

14.00 – 14.20 Speaker Angie Gullan: As a citizen scientist, Wild Dolphin Encounter Guide & Educator in Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique, Angie has been working in the area of ethical and educational wild Dolphin Encountours for the past two decades. She spends her time balancing eco-tourism, research and conservation projects in Ponta do Ouro. Her interests are in the long-term monitoring of the local dolphins of Ponta and conscious interaction between species. In this presentation, Angie will review DolphinCare’s code of conduct – creating a safe space for human-dolphin encounters to take place in the wild.

14.20 – 14.40 Speaker David Schofield: David has worked in the marine mammal field for twenty-eight years. He holds a Master of Science degree from University of Maryland with his thesis focusing on neonatal behavioral development of bottlenose dolphins. For the past twelve years David has worked as the Marine Mammal Response Program Manager for NOAA’s Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) overseeing marine mammal response in Hawaii, Guam, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. In this presentation, David will update us on Managing spinner dolphin viewing and considerations on dolphin behavioral disturbance in Hawaii.

 14.40 – 15.00 Sophie Lewis:  Sophie is Responsible Whale Watching Project Manager for the World Cetacean Alliance Secretariat. Sophie will summarize the results of the new WCA report on ‘Best Practice for In-water Encounters with Dolphins’ and ask, is it practical to apply these standards across the industry?

15.00 – 16.00 Workshop: Exploring existing standards, new ideas, and seeking agreement for best practice and minimum standard guidelines

16.00 – 16.30 Break

16.30 – 17.30 Summary and outputs from symposiums 1 and 2 plus launch of the WCA responsible whale watching app!


SYMPOSIUM 2: Partnership and Collaboration

Chair: Clive Martin, Lifetime Partner and Trustee, WCA

Auditorium 2

11.00 – 11.30 Keynote speaker: Els Vermeulen – Marine Conservation; Collaboration among stakeholders

In this talk, Els will speak about who the stakeholders might be in marine conservation, why they should collaborate and how, what often goes wrong, and what the ways forward may be (how to improve communication, build trust, look for shared goals etc). Finally Els will openly discuss what kind of collaborations already exist in South Africa with room for discussion for people to give their own input and views; why do they think collaboration is often difficult, where they struggle, where is it successful etc. This will be an interactive talk, with people giving their own feedback and thoughts, brainstorming together on how we could do better in South Africa and beyond!


11.30 – 11.50 Keynote speaker: François-Xavier Mayer – Cetamada

Cetamada, a Malagasy organisation, is committed towards a sustainable development approach through the involvement of the local population. The promotion of responsible ecotourism is one of their main activities through the implementation of a code of good practice issued by a Malagasy law. On top of this, Cetamada collect data onboard ecotourism boats, which represent 70% of their data and help their scientific team to understand the whales.


11.50 – 13.00 Open Mic Session

Our open mic (or open mike) session (derived from the expression “open microphone”) will enable partners and other attendees to discuss their projects, campaigns, business strategies, community projects, joint initiatives and more in an informal setting. Open mic presenters will be asked to write down their presentation on a board at the beginning of the session. The amount of time allotted to each speaker will depend on the number of presentations offered. Generally, presentations tend to be around 5 to 10 minutes long with 5 minutes for questions. Slide shows and videos are welcomed but are not compulsory. If presenters wish to simply talk to the audience onstage they are welcome to do so. The aim if this session is to highlight the varied and important work being undertaken by attendees at the conference, increase awareness of that work, and facilitate further discussions and partnership between participants.


13.00 – 14.00 Lunch break

14.00 – 16.00 Workshop Maximising the benefits of the WCA Partnership

This session will look at ways in which the World Cetacean Alliance can further benefit the work of its Partners in order to more effectively protect cetaceans, their habitats, and associated human communities. Key to discussions will be a look at WCA’s marine naturalist guides internship programme, the potential for a global whale festival, and opportunities to develop whale watch associations, and ‘twinning’ initiatives between Partners.

Workshop session

  • Whale watch associations and twinning programmes
  • Guides Internships: Maximising their effectiveness
  • Monitoring whale watching best practice: Can it be achieved voluntarily?
  • Global Whale Festival – Celebrating the power of the WCA partnership

16.00 – 16.30 Break

16.30 – 17.30 Summary and outputs from symposiums 1 and 2, plus we launch the WCA Responsible whale watching app!



Towards responsible tourism for cetaceans


Tuesday 27 June

Conference auditorium

8.30 – 9.00. Reception

Chair: Roy Mulder, Canadian Marine Environment Protection Society

9.00 – 9.40 Keynote speaker: Tory Johnson of HappyWhale – an innovative citizen science project

Tory Johnson of Happywhale will tell the story of this innovative online platform, which tracks individual whales throughout our world’s oceans. Happywhale believes that whale watching guides, naturalists and passengers are vital to our understanding of whales. Scientists can only be in one place at one time; so by harnessing the power of millions of whale watching enthusiasts, we can expand our scientific knowledge exponentially. Happywhale empowers whale watchers to photograph whales and tell their stories.


9.40 – 10.20 Keynote speaker: Anastasia Miliou of Archipelagos – planning for the first permanent semi-natural sanctuary in the world to rehabilitate dolphins rescued from commercial captivity

Anastasia Miliou is a marine biologist and the Scientific Director of the Greek NGO Archipelagos, Institute of Marine Conservation. Anastasia is among the key founding members of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary which is currently under creation, aiming to become a vet station where marine mammals and turtles can receive care, within a pristine biodiverse bay, as well as the first permanent, semi-natural sanctuary in the world to rehabilitate dolphins rescued from commercial captivity.

10.20 – 10.30 Plan for the day


SYMPOSIUM 3: Cetacean research on whale watching platforms

Conference auditorium


Luena Fernandes, Humpback Whale Institute, Brazil

Miranda van der Linde, Futurismo Whale Watching, Azores, Portugal

This symposium will explore the use of whale watching platforms to conduct dedicated research and citizen science projects. Whale and dolphin watching vessels provide researchers with a unique opportunity to collect important biological information about cetaceans, with implications for conservation and welfare. In addition, whale watching passengers can provide vital information to aid social, economic, or human behaviour change studies, which can lead to improved education programmes and outreach projects to engage people with environmental issues and sustainability.

In this symposium we will look at a range of scientific studies undertaken on whale and dolphin watching platforms and identify a priority list for short and long-term studies to be conducted through the WCA partnership. A priority for discussion will be the opportunity to partner with Happywhale by providing photographic data from across the WCA partnership and utilizing the resulting combined dataset to conduct conservation-focused research.


Morning Session

11.00 – 12.00 Presentation session: Biological, social, and economic studies on whale watching platforms


11.00 – 11.20 Miranda van der Linde – Futurismo Whale Watching – Research in the Azores

Miranda will take a look at the research work conducted by Futurismo’s onboard researchers in one of the most species-rich areas of the North Atlantic, the Azores.


11.20 – 11.40 Rachel Kramer, Project Coordinator, Whale Time – The Wildlands Whale Time Project

The Wildlands Whale Time Project’s goal is to bring science, conservation, tourism and community together around the key phenomenon of the annual migration of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) along the east coast of South Africa. The Whale Time project has four main elements. The first is to conduct and support research, with student collaboration, to update current knowledge about the population status of the east coast C1-stock humpback whales;  to gain an understanding of population trends and any threats to the population. To this end, the project has populated a catalogue for over 400 individuals, photographed in their breeding grounds in Mozambique and in South Africa en route to and from these grounds. The second element is the promotion of a citizen science approach to allow the public to become informed participants in knowledge generation, by contributing images to the catalogue, and advocates for marine conservation. The project has established an online platform that will allow “citizen scientists” to upload their photos of whales, which will be identified by experts. The third element of the project aims to build awareness about whales, the opportunities they present and the threats they face, using social media platforms, a dedicated website, conventional media or press techniques and the active participation of a wide range of stakeholders. The final element promotes ethical and sustainable community-based tourism. In the pilot phase, five guides have been trained and currently offer whale tours at the Maritime Museum in Durban, they contribute to the larger Whale Route, in the south of Durban and additional activities held or planned by the South Durban Tourism Association.


11.40 – 12.00 Luena Fernandes, Humpback Whale Institute – An Integrated Framework to Assess the Carrying Capacity of Whale-Watching Tourism

Humpback whale-watching tourism has increased rapidly in recent years in Praia do Forte, northeastern Brazil, raising concerns about the potential consequences whale-watching induced disturbances may have on the targeted individuals and population. To manage this activity sustainably, it is important to determine its carrying capacity, which requires an understanding of the biological, social and economic dimensions involved, as well as consideration of all stakeholders and
the current management capacity in place at that specific locality.

We propose an integrated framework to guide the assessment of whale-watching carrying capacity that takes into account the different elements of sustainable management and the main stakeholders involved in any commercial whale-watching activity and make recommendations to improve our understanding of this activity’s impacts and sustainable management in this locality.


12.00 – 13.00 Workshop: Identifying research projects and priorities for the WCA partnership

The workshop will include special reference to long-term monitoring of impacts of whale and dolphin watching on cetaceans, as well as long-term socio-economic and environmental benefits of whale watching

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch break


Happywhale – collaborating with a citizen science project on a global scale!

14.00 – 15.00 Practical: Tory Johnson introduces the Happywhale tool and provides delegates with the opportunity to use it. Happywhale uses state-of-the-art image processing algorithms to match whale photos with scientific collections. This newly developed efficiency now makes global whale tracking more possible than ever.


15.00 – 16.00 Plenary discussion:

  1. How can Happywhale’s growing dataset be applied to the WCAs research priorities?
  2. Encouraging WCA Partners to commit to data submission through the HappyWhale tool.
  3. How could data submitted by WCA partners be recirculated so that WCA partners tcould undertake collaborative research?
  4. How many of WCA’s research priority list questions could be answered through data submission and analysis with Happywhale?
  5. Could students benefit from combining field research on WCA whale watch partner platforms with longer-term data submitted by the same partners through Happywhale?
  6. Can Happywhale assist the WCA in assessing the long-term impacts of whale and dolphin watching on cetaceans?
  7. Could WCA partners assist in providing location-based information to Happywhale, such as species, conservation threats, latest research, which would appear when users post images of cetaceans in that location?
  8. Summary and draft strategic plan for research

16.00 – 16.30 Break

16.30 – 17.00 Summary and outputs from symposiums 1 and 2.

17.00 – 17.30 Conference conclusion, financial statement, and details of forthcoming WCA elections


Symposium 4: Captivity and Sanctuary


Global Minimum Welfare Standards (GMS) for Cetaceans in Captivity: A tool for change

Auditorium 2

Chair: Daniel Turner, Born Free Foundation, UK

This symposium will discuss and compare existing standards for cetaceans currently held in captivity and review these in context to ABTA’s Minimum Requirements for the keeping of cetaceans in a captive environment. Delegates will consider the creation of Global Minimum Welfare Standards for captive cetaceans; with the objective of improving animal welfare standards in existing captive facilities, whilst solutions to end cetacean captivity are realised. Attendees will receive an insight into how standards are being imposed on captive cetacean facilities through engagement with the tourism sector, how capacity-building of attraction suppliers could improve standards and consider how the GMS could be effectively adopted by the international community.


11.00 – 11.30 Speaker Daniel Turner – Introduction: Global Minimum Welfare Standards (GMS) – why we need them?

11.30 – 12.00 Workshop: Exploring existing standards, the creation of GMS and the influence of the travel sector

12.00 – 12.30 Speakers Hayley Lynagh and Jo Hendrickx, Global Spirit – Auditing against ABTA’s Minimum Requirements: opportunities to improve standards

12.30 – 13.00 Plenary discussion: How could the GMS be adopted by the international community?


13.00 – 14.00 Lunch


14.00 – 16.00 Advocacy, campaigning, and Seaside Sanctuaries


14.00 – 14.45 Regional Updates: Effective campaigns and advocacy (case studies)

Speakers (TBC):

Lloyd Edwards, Raggy Charters – Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Sharyn Taylor, Melbourne Dolphin (report submitted) – Sea World Australia update

Daniel Turner, Born Free Foundation – Progress across Europe

Luena Fernandes, Humpback Whale Institute – Update from Latin America

Roy Mulder, CMEPS – Vancouver Aquarium update – Canada

Stephanie Hall, Action for Dolphins – Progress across Oceania

Daniel Turner, Born Free Foundation – Progress across USA and Mexico

Miranda van der Linde, Futurismo Whale Watching – Azores, Portugal update


14.45 – 15.00 Plenary discussion, including: Educational materials: Current information and shortfalls; and what next for the WCA Captivity Working Group?


15.00 – 16.00 Seaside Sanctuaries

15.00 – 15.10 Insight into the existing plans to establish seaside sanctuaries, the obstacles preventing advances and likely solution

15.10 – 15.30 Presentation Anastasia Miliou, Archipelagos Marine Life Institute – What would a seaside sanctuary look like?

15.30 – 15.50 Presentation by David Schofield, Regional Marine Mammal Response Program Coordinator
NOAA IRC – Viability of Cetacean rehabilitation and behavioral and husbandry considerations when transitioning cetaceans to new environments

15.50 – 16.00 Plenary: The likely future of seaside sanctuaries


16.00 – 16.30 Break


16.30 – 17.00 Summary and outputs from symposiums 1 and 2.

17.00 – 17.30 Conference conclusion, financial statement, and details of forthcoming WCA elections


Evening: Film Night!