The activity of dolphin (whale)-watching is described as “the commercial observation of cetaceans in their habitat from a platform on land, sea or air” (Hoyt 2001).
The dolphin-watching industry constitutes an emergent business in many coastal areas around the world and has seen spectacular growth over the last fifteen years. The industry began in the 1950’s in San Diego (California) and has since expanded as far as Antarctica. During the 1960’s, the industry grew significantly in the United States and Canada, followed by Australia, New Zealand, the Canary Islands, Japan and Norway in the 1980’s (Hoyt 1995, 1996) and, Iceland, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Tonga in the middle of 1990’s.
In 1998, the number of dolphin-watching tourists totalled around 9 million, estimating the volume of income generated to be 1 billion US Dollars, doubling the income in 1994 (Hoyt, 2001). In 1998, of those nine million participating in dolphin-watching trips, one million were from the United States alone. More recently, other countries and regions such as the Canary Islands and Canada have reached similar volumes. Australia and South Africa are expected to double their numbers from 500,000. (Hoyt, 2001)
This activity has been developed in more than 492 communities with the majority experiencing a real transformation. Dolphin-watching provides important incomes, creates new activities which generate new employment and moreover, constitutes a very useful tool to study marine mammals and marine environments.
Whale and dolphin watching have become an increasingly popular and financially important tourist activity along the East African coast. Currently, dolphin research and conservation efforts are being undertaken in Tanzania (Zanzibar) and Mozambique within the Sustainable Dolphin Tourism in East Africa Project. However, to date, few studies of cetaceans have been undertaken in Kenya and there is an urgent need to initiate research to aid future conservation and management of the species found in Kenyan coastal waters.
A bottlenose dolphin being watched by tourists in the KMMPA
Global Vision International (GVI) Kenya has set up a new project focused on the dolphin-watching activity of Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Protected Area (KMMPA). The objectives of this project are to collect information about the socio-economic impact of tourism operation on the area and to analyze the sustainability of increased levels of human-dolphin interaction. Further, to identify existing problems and to propose constructive changes to respective government institutions that would help boat operators, tour companies, and the local residents in running the activity sustainably. These objectives will in turn add value to the Code of Conduct for KMMPA, developed by Kenya Wildlife Service in 2007.
1. Analysis of the socio-economic activity (dolphin-watching) in KMMPA.
2. Impact of tourist dhow boats on the cetacean population.
3. Education and awareness of boat operators and tour guides.
The data will be collected through interviews to tourist, boat operators, hoteliers and local community members in Mkwiro, Shimoni and Wasini. Also, GVI research vessel will assess the impact of this tourism investigating the abundance, distribution and behaviour of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). Moreover, we will compare sightings and behaviour on different areas and with different levels of tourism activity that will allow us to evaluate the Code of Conduct. And finally, GVI will create awareness and education of local dolphin species and habitats engaging the boat operators and tour guides in different projects so as to promote conservation issues.
Hoyt, E. 1995. The Worldwide Value and Extent of Whale Watching: 1995. Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Bath, UK. pp. 1-36.
Hoyt, E. 1996. Whale watching and community development around the world. Keynote lecture to the International Whale Watching Festa ’96. The International Whale Watching Forum (Japan). Zamami, Okinawa, Japan, 9 Mar. 1996.
Hoyt, E. 2001. Whale watching 2001: Worldwide tourism numbers, expenditures and expanding socioeconomic benefits. International Fund for Animal Welfare, Yarmouth Port, MA, USA, pp. i –vi; 1-158.