Coast KZN

27 Jun 2017

Whale tourism must be “ethical and sustainable”

Elana Geist (North Coast Courier) Picture: Watching a humpback whale breaching is an awe-inspiring sight.


The international Whale Conference and Whale Heritage Sites Summit takes place in Durban this week.

The recovery of humpback whales along the KZN coastline is a conservation success story which WhaleTime project manager Rachel Kramer intends to keep up.

While the humpback whale population was nearly wiped out with only about 340 of the ocean giants left – due to whaling which ended in 1975 – they flourished to over 7000 and that was estimated 15 years ago.

“Looking at these numbers highlights why it is so important for us to get this citizen science project to grow so we can help marine scientists and contribute to the understanding of the movement and population dynamics of the South African East Coast Humpback whale migration stocks,” said Kramer, who holds a masters in Ichthyology and fisheries science.

Under the theme – Towards Responsible Tourism for Cetaceans – Rachel said they hope to promote ethical and sustainable tourism around this iconic species during the international Whale Conference and Whale Heritage Sites Summit taking place in Durban this week.

“With increasing threats from human activities including pollution, entanglement from fishing gear, noise pollution and ship strikes, the last thing we want is irresponsible whale watchers to add to these issues.

“There is no reason why tourists and whales should not be able to coexist, we just need to be make sure that care is taken to observe and obey the marine and whale watching code of conduct.”

She said now is the time to look out for whales, as they are coming north to breed in the warmer water.

“Whale migration happens every year between June-November.

“In June/July they come up from the cold Antarctic water where they feed.

“They then come back down in October/November with their new young.”

Another side of responsible tourism is that it should benefit local communities.

WhaleTime has partnered with KZN Coastal College and have placed ten of their aspiring tour guides at the Port Natal Maritime Museum to conduct WhaleTime tours and teach them about responsible and sustainable environmental tourism.

“Growing up in a township, this is a new and exciting experience for them, which for some, has been the first interactions they have ever had with the whales.”