An evaluation of Humback Whales as a Tourism Resource and Recommendations for Improving the Whale Watching Industry in Salinas, Ecuador.

TitleAn evaluation of Humback Whales as a Tourism Resource and Recommendations for Improving the Whale Watching Industry in Salinas, Ecuador.
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsBearson, Brittaney N.
Academic DepartmentBiology
Thesis AdvisorMason, Robert T.
DegreeBachelors of Arts in International Studies in Biology
Number of Pages52
Date Published06/2006
UniversityOregon State University
Thesis TypeUndergraduate
KeywordsEcuador, Humpback whales, Salinas, tourism, whale watching

Whales have been sources of food and cultural traditions for thousands of years. The exploitation of whales in the 18th and 19th centuries left many species on the brink of extinction. With the ban on commercial whaling in 1986, communities worldwide have gradually been adopting whale watching industries. These industries have proven to be very lucrative in most cases and serve as a platform for educating the public on whales and other marine mammals. One such industry is in Salinas, Ecuador. Whale watching in Salinas occurs June through September, when humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins are frequent visitors along the coast. La Fundacion para el Estudio de Mamiferos Marinos ( the Ecuadorian Foundation for the Study of Marine Mammals) or F.E.M.M. is a non-profit organization working out of Salinas dedicated to the research and protection of the marine mammals found off the coast of Ecuador. The research conducted for this study was done in cooperation with F.E.M.M. during 2004. The objectives of this study were to conduct research on the effects of whale watching, to investigate the whale watching industries in Salinas and compare it to those of the top three whale watching industries worldwide, to evaluate the positive and negative effects whale watching has on whale watching communities, and finally, to use this information to compile a list of useful recommendations for Salinas’ growing industry. The research on whale watching was conducted aboard whale watching vessels and addresses two major concerns: how many whale watching vessels are too many vessels when observing a single group of whales, and is there any evidence that the southeastern population of humpbacks is showing increased evasive behaviors towards vessels as a result of the growing whale watching industry. The results of the study aimed at identifying how many vessels are too many vessels when observing whales were found to be inconclusive due to study limitations and flaws. No evidence was found that suggests any long-term behavioral changes by the whales as a result of increasing whale watching activities along the coast. Overall, it was concluded that the industry in Salinas has been regulated in a very responsible manner, although a list of recommendations were compiled to help the industry be better prepared for its growth in the future.