Towards responsible tourism for cetaceans


Monday 26 June

Conference auditorium

Welcome to the 4th World Whale Conference

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.


SYMPOSIUM 1: Responsible Whale & Dolphin Watching

Symposium 1 Morning Session

Global best practice for responsible whale and dolphin watching

Chair: Dylan Walker, WCA Secretariat, UK


The Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watching Symposium will aim to achieve three important goals:

  1. 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.
  2. Create an International Advisory Committee for Cetaceans in Tourism to oversee the agreed Global Standards.
  3. Seek endorsement for both the Global Standards and Advisory Committee from national and international institutions, regulatory bodies, governments, NGOs, and the travel industry.

Morning session

Introduction: Global best practice and minimum standards – a tool to encourage positive change

Presentation session: Exploring the strengths and weaknesses of current guidelines

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. 

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.  

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.


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


Plenary: Seeking endorsement for and recognition of a draft ‘best practice and minimum standards’ for responsible whale and dolphin watching


Symposium 1 Afternoon Session

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

Chair: Angie Gullan, Dolphin Encountours, Mozambique

Presentation session:

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.

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 the current review of swim-with guidelines for spinner dolphins in Hawaii.

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?


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


Plenary: Seeking endorsement for and recognition of a draft ‘best practice and minimum standards’ for in-water encounters with whales and dolphins


Conference auditorium

Summary and Outputs


SYMPOSIUM 2: Partnership and Collaboration

Chair: TBA

Symposium 2 Morning Session

Short talks: WCA Partners and other attendees discuss their initiatives, projects, and campaigns

Plenary discussion and Q&A


Symposium 2 Afternoon Session

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 be 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


Conference auditorium

Summary and Outputs



Tuesday 27 June

Conference auditorium

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.


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.


SYMPOSIUM 3: Cetacean research on whale watching platforms

Chair: Luena Fernandes, Humpback Whale Institute, Brazil

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

Presentations session: Biological, social, and economic studies on whale watching platforms


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


Symposium 3 Afternoon Session

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

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.


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?


Plenary: Summary and draft strategic plan for research


Symposium 4: Captivity and Sanctuary


Symposium 4 Morning Session

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

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.


  • Introduction: Global Minimum Welfare Standards (GMS) – why we need them?
  • Workshop: Exploring existing standards, the creation of GMS and the influence of the travel sector
  • Auditing against ABTA’s Minimum Requirements: opportunities to improve standards. Presentation by Global Spirit
  • Plenary discussion: How could the GMS be adopted by the international community?


Symposium 4 Afternoon Session

Advocacy, campaigning, and Seaside Sanctuaries

  • Regional Updates: Effective campaigns and advocacy (case studies)
  • Educational materials: Current information and shortfalls
  • Plenary discussion – what next for the WCA Captivity Working Group?


Seaside Sanctuaries

  • Insight into the existing plans to establish seaside sanctuaries, the obstacles preventing advances and likely solutions
  • What would a seaside sanctuary look like? Presentation by Anastasia Miliou, Archipelagos Marine Life Institute
  • Cetacean rehabilitation: the differences between stranded and formerly exploited captive cetaceans. Presentation by David Schofield, NOAA
  • Plenary: The likely future of seaside sanctuaries



Conference auditorium

  • Summary and feedback from symposiums
  • AGM Summary and WCA elections