International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

June 17, 2005 08:00 ET


New guide promotes benefits of whale watching as an alternative to whaling Attention: Assignment Editor, Environment Editor, News Editor, Travel/Tourism Editor, World News Editor ULSAN, SOUTH KOREA--(CCNMatthews - June 17, 2005) - As countries from around the world gather in Ulsan, South Korea for the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission, the first guide to watching whales and dolphins in four countries across East Asia gives a timely reminder of this valuable economic alternative to whaling.

This comprehensive guide, produced by WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation society and IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), explores the fascinating whale watch opportunities available in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

A total of 41 different species of whales and dolphins can be found off the coasts of these countries (almost half of all known cetacean species). These include the critically endangered Western Pacific grey and North Pacific right whales, the famous pink Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and the minke whale - the latter, the species most frequently targeted by Japanese whalers.

Japanese whale watching, which focuses on some 20 species, began in 1988 and has grown significantly since. The most recent estimates reveal that Japan has more than 100,000 whale watchers in at least 20 communities, a sharp increase from around 11,000 in 1991. By contrast, the urban whale watching in Hong Kong focuses on one species, the famous 'pink dolphins'. In Taiwan, whale watching began fairly recently (in 1997), but has grown to more than 200,000 passengers per year from half a dozen ports, numbers now outstripping Japan. Korea currently has no commercial whale watching opportunities, but there is exciting potential for this to be developed, from land and by boat.

"It's amazing to see how the communities in the region are enthusiastically embracing the concept of whale watching," says Erich Hoyt, WDCS Senior Research Fellow and author of the report. "They recognize that the activity offers solid benefits, allowing local people to work together to develop an activity which - assuming trips are run to high standards - can be economically rewarding. With the presence of trained naturalist guides, whale watching can also contribute to environmental education, scientific research and conservation."

The new guide leads the way in promoting the benefits of whale watching whilst also raising awareness of the animals and the threats they face. In many areas of the East Asian Pacific whaling is banned and dolphins are no longer hunted. However, in Japan, whales and dolphins are still killed in hunts for meat and some dolphins are taken alive to supply the captivity industry. In addition, whales and dolphins continue to face a range of serious threats across East Asia, including death in fishing nets, pollution, prey depletion and more.

"Whale watching presents truly sustainable economic opportunities for coastal communities in Japan and other countries across Asia and worldwide" said IFAW spokesperson Patrick Ramage. "Animals and people both do better when whales are seen and not hurt."

"Whale watching may be the start of a new way to look at whales in the region," adds Hoyt, "But a full range of conservation measures needs to be adopted to safeguard cetacean populations in the region."
/For further information: For more information, a copy of the guide, or images please call:

Patrick Ramage (IFAW) at Korea IWC meeting - +82 1022834226
Georgina Davies (WDCS) - +44 (0)7787516635

Notes for Editors
‘Watching Whales and Dolphins in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea' (WDCS, IFAW, 48pp) is published in June in English. On 10 August 2005, the booklet will be issued in Japanese, Chinese and Korean, as well as reprinted in English, at Aichi Expo 2005, in Nagoya, Japan.

Entitled ‘Nature's Wisdom', Aichi Expo 2005 will focus on many global issues that face humankind and is expected to attract 20 million visitors from March to September 2005.

Report author, Erich Hoyt will be at the ICERC (the International Cetacean Education Research Centre) booth from 8 to 15 August and will present an illustrated lecture with Japanese naturalist Kotoe Sasamori which will simulate whale watching in the wild in one of the Expo theatres in hopes of raising awareness of the cetaceans that can be found around the Japanese coast.

More than 10 million people a year go whale watching in more than 90 countries and overseas territories, spending at least $1.25 billion USD.

Figures on whale watching in Japan and worldwide are from "Whale Watching 2001" an IFAW report by Erich Hoyt. Recent Taiwan figures are courtesy the Taiwan Cetacean Society.

Contact Information

  • Patrick Ramage, Director Communications - Contact in Korea, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation society
    Primary Phone: 102-283-4226 ext. 82