Sri Lanka forum ponders future of lucrative whale tourism
By Rohan Gunasekera
Feb 25, 2016 09:19 AM GMT+0530 | 0 Comment(s)
ECONOMYNEXT – Indian Ocean policy makers and scientists are meeting in Sri Lanka to evaluate whale and dolphin watching practices and develop rules to improve marine tourism, an industry which generates more earnings than aquaculture and fisheries worldwide.
The forum in Colombo aims to develop an Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) whale and dolphin watching tourism network so that member states can work together to ensure sustainable whale and dolphin watching tourism in their waters.
Unregulated or risky behaviour by tourist boats could pose risks to migrating whales and resident populations of dolphins who respond with evasive tactics or habitat abandonment, studies have shown.
“Marine tourism generates more earnings that aquaculture and fisheries,” said Pia Simonsen, Deputy Director of the IORA Secretariat which organised the forum with Sri Lanka’s Institute of Policy Studies and the International Whaling Commission.
Whale-watching tourism now generates revenues over two billion US dollars and involves 13 million whale-watchers annually, she told the forum which was also supported by the Australian government and Murdoch University Cetaceans Research unit.
Simonsen said there was considerable scope for whale and dolphin watching tourism but the Indian Ocean region needs mechanisms for IORA member states to share expertise and experiences to ensure better regulation of the industry.
Many Indian Ocean rim countries including Sri Lanka have seen big growth in tourism based on whale and dolphin watching in recent years.
Saman Kelegama, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies said that member states can reap benefits by working together.
They could look at incentives for conserving marine biodiversity for future generations, he told the forum.
Collaboration could not only improve economic opportunities but also create conditions for sustainable management of coastal and marine resources. (Colombo/Feb25/2016)