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Marine Tourism

Room: Carron A     2014-08-15; 15:00 - 17:00

NB: Unless specified otherwise, presentations are 15 minutes in length, and speed presentations are 5 mins in length.

Chair(s)/Moderator(s): Dearden, Philip

C25.1  15:00  Translating a pelagic research partnership into enduring protections for the Yucatan Upwelling Zone (YUZ) in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Dove, Alistair D.M. *, Georgia Aquarium Research Center; de la Parra, Rafael Ch\'ooj Ajauil AC; Levenson, Jacob Georgia Aquarium Research Center; Galvan, Beatriz Ch\'ooj Ajauil AC; Billeter, Kristine Ch\'ooj Ajauil AC;

Abstract: The northeastern tip of the Yucatan peninsula is the site of an exceptionally productive near-shore pelagic ecosystem, which results from a coastal topography that creates persistent tropical upwelling. This ecosystem is best known for the extraordinary numbers of whale sharks that gather annually between spring and autumn to feed on zooplankton blooms north of Isla Holbox, or fish eggs east of Isla Contoy. Yet there are other valuable biodiversity assets in this area, including manta ray aggregations, marine mammals, bull sharks, sailfish aggregations, turtle nesting and several healthy and unhealthy coral reefs. From 2003 to 2011 research in the area focused on whale sharks through a government/academic partnership called Proyecto Domino, which focused specifically on gathering data required for managing the whale shark population and its associated ecotourism industry. It had some success in the establishment of the Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve in 2009. In 2012, a new NGO, Ch’ooj Ajauil (Reino Azul/Blue Realm), was established with the goal of achieving broader protections of the YUZ by addressing research deficiencies and by engaging government, the ecotourism industry and public stakeholders in advocacy for UNESCO world heritage listing. We will discuss key achievements and challenges to date in this exciting new endeavour.

C25.2  15:15  Dolphin SMART: An Education and Conservation Program for Sustainable Dolphin-Watching Tourism in Hawaii, USA. McCue, Laura *, NOAA Fisheries, PIRO;

Abstract: Experiencing wild dolphins and whales in their natural environment has its benefits: it can be an educational experience, and may promote conservation of, and respect for the species and the marine environment. However, research demonstrates that the growing global whale and dolphin tourism industry can have negative impacts on the health and fitness of target species. In Hawaii, this industry focuses on Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), because they are routinely found close to shore utilizing the shallow waters during the day to rest. These near shore waters are easily accessible for dolphin-directed activities, and spinner dolphins are the target of viewing or swim-with tours on a daily basis. Studies indicate that dolphin-directed activities are disrupting the dolphins’ natural behavioral patterns, and are disturbing their daytime rest. In order to minimize these negative impacts, NOAA Fisheries and its partners have implemented the Dolphin SMART program, a voluntary educational program that aids in dolphin conservation. This program maximizes the existing benefits of the industry by encouraging learning about and enjoying these animals in their natural habitat, while also promoting sustainable viewing practices to reduce the impact of human activities on the wild dolphin population.

C25.3  15:30  Differential reactions to anthropogenic disturbance by two ground-nesting seabirds. Van de Voorde, S *, Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences; Witteveen, M Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town; Brown, M Nature's Valley Trust;

Abstract: Coastal ecosystems offer important habitats for animals and plants, and yet are also frequently densely urbanised. In South Africa, increasing tourism and expanding development puts pressure on fauna and flora in coastal ecosystems. Many ground nesting shorebirds experience a high level of anthropogenic disturbance in South Africa as the breeding season coincides with the influx of summer holiday-makers. The aim of this study was to determine, and contrast, the extent of the influence of anthropogenic disturbance on the breeding biology of the Near-Threatened African Black Oystercatcher (ABO) and the common urbanised Kelp Gull (KG) nesting in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. Manipulated disturbance trials involving directly approaching incubating birds from over 100 metres away, dropping markers at each behavioural reaction to the approach were done. Measuring back from the nest allowed a quantitative measure of the effects of disturbance. ABO have stood up by 62.72 ± 5.46 m and walked away from nest at 59.13 ± 5.41 m and take 428.10 ± 74.40 seconds to return to incubating the eggs. Conversely, KG have stood up by 12.40 ± 1.49 m and walked away from nest at 11.74 ± 3.22 m and take 59.10 ± 14.03 seconds to return to incubating the eggs. These results emphasise the need to have a buffer zone surrounding breeding areas excluding human presence to allow for the successful breeding of African Black Oystercatchers leading to the conservation of this Near-Threatened species.

C25.4  15:45  Past, present and future conservation contributions of SCUBA diving in Phuket Thailand. Dearden, Philip *, University of Victoria; Augustine, Skye Northwest Indian College;

Abstract: SCUBA diving can act as an incentive-based conservation activity providing a less destructive use of marine resources such as coral reefs than many other forms of livelihood support. However diving is not homogenous and has variable impacts depending on its characteristics. This paper reviews the changing characteristics of the dive clientele in Phuket, Thailand, suggests how these may relate to conservation potential and how this might change under future climate change. We compare the results of extensive diver questionnaire surveys undertaken in 2000 with surveys in 2012. The industry has grown, but the clientele has shifted to a lower-paying, less specialized diver with lower expectations and declining satisfactions. The average economic contribution of divers has declined substantially. Diver satisfaction declined 17 percent between 2000 and 2012. Divers have a low level of knowledge about climate change and its potential impacts, but 75% of divers are interested in learning more and 62 percent are interested in visiting reefs to view the impacts of climate change. Of the 70% of divers willing to return to Phuket, a third said they would dive less frequently due to climate change impacts, resulting in a reduced demand for diving and the value of the industry for livelihood support and ultimately conservation. The results suggest a declining potential for diving to act as an effective conservation tool without strong management interventions.

C25.5  16:00  Whale shark provisioning in Oslob, Philippines: A case study. Ponzo, A. *, Physalus, Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines, Largo Callifonte 28, Rome, 00124, Italy.; Lucey, A. Physalus, Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines, Largo Callifonte 28, Rome, 00124, Italy.; Araujo, G. Physalus, Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines, Largo Callifonte 28, Rome, 00124, Italy.; Labaja, MJJ Physalus, Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines, Largo Callifonte 28, Rome, 00124, Italy.; So, CL Physalus, Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines, Largo Callifonte 28, Rome, 00124, Italy.; Snow, S Physalus, Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines, Largo Callifonte 28, Rome, 00124, Italy.;

Abstract: Provisioning is a growing practice used to facilitate wildlife-tourist interaction, especially with elusive marine species, but little is known about its effect on the host species. This is the first study worldwide to assess the impact of the provisioning on the whale shark, Rhincodon typus, and the related tourism industry. Data has been collected in Oslob, Cebu, Philippines, since March 2012. During 621 days of survey, 158 individual whale sharks were identified within the interaction area, over 300h of shark behavioural observations and tourist compliance surveys were conducted, along with 60 biopsy and 40 fecal samples, 4000h of dive profiles from archival tags, and 500 tourist satisfaction questionnaires. Since its official opening in January 2012 more than 180,000 interaction tickets have been sold making it one of the largest marine wildlife tourist attractions in South East Asia. The benefits for the community are undeniable, however behavioural modification, including loss of avoidance response and extended residency time (feeding shark 44.92d (S.E=20.56); non-feeding shark 22.36d (S.E=8.86)), poor nutritional value of provided food, thermal stress and habitat destruction are some of the quantified side effects of this industry. An adaptive management model based on the identification of the limits of acceptable change is in development to address current limitations, and create a long-term sustainable management plan for the whale shark watching industry in Oslob.

C25.6  16:15  The current state of shark dive tourism: A powerful lever for conservation or an accident waiting to happen? MacPherson, R *, Pelagia Consulting;

Abstract: A strategy increasingly employed by shark conservationists is leveraging the argument for protecting sharks as a basis for attracting dive tourism revenue over the lifetime of a shark versus the one-time utilization value of a fished shark sold for its meat or fins. The dive tourism industry is seeing a resultant surge in shark diving, a lucrative and rapidly growing segment of adventure tourism. Many shark dive operations ensure successful viewing by aggregating sharks through feeding. Initial research has suggested provisioning does not negatively alter shark behavior. But is the practice inconsistent to decades of terrestrial observational data of the behavioral repercussions for wildlife and human interactions as a result of provisioning. And are dive operations selected for studies representative of the industry as a whole? The intention of shark tourism appears to be an effort to shift public perception of sharks from “man-eaters” to “ charismatic wildlife." Has the urgency for shark conservation (or the allure of a marketable tourism "product") gotten ahead of sound science? Through an overview of global shark tourism, demographics, emerging best practices, and socioeconomic meta-analysis, we hope to drive a discussion within the conservation and dive tourism community on how, and at what costs, we are framing shark conservation.

C25.7  16:30  Conservation in the cloud: Leveraging mobile technology to connect marine tourism businesses with resource managers. Levenson, J *, U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy; Thompson, M NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary ; Grétarsdóttir, R Icelandic Whale Watch Operators Association; Rasmussen, M University of Iceland’s Husavik Research Center; Harris, E Caribbean Association of Whale Watch Operators ; Hardy, S Western Atlantic Conservation Institute; Nelson, P Western Atlantic Conservation Institute;

Abstract: Scientists, resource managers, and conservationists contend with the ever-present challenge of collection of substantial data of sufficient rigor in order to best inform management strategies. With the utilization of a new electronic tool known as SpotterPro, data collection using opportunistic platforms becomes much easier. Challenges associated with the compilation of sightings per unit effort or with transcription errors in moving from paper to a computer database are reduced. The SpotterPro database allows operators to document sightings, behavior, effort and environmental data with cloud storage for analysis. The Caribbean Association of Whale Watching Operators and the Icelandic Whale Watching Association implemented SpotterPro’s unique cloud-based data collection platform which afforded them the opportunity to contribute cetacean sightings across the region. This collaboration resulted in filling knowledge gaps in species distribution and behavior as well as extraordinary time savings when compared with traditional paper-based data collection. During a trial period, participants recorded an increase in data collecting efficiency, with the documentation of 557 unique encounters, while easily preparing GIS analysis. With global smartphone sales expected to hit two billion by 2015, this conservation tool is well-positioned to take advantage of the prevalence of both smartphone users and ecotour operators in order to collect effort-corrected cetacean sighting data.

C25.8  16:45  Is the value of wildlife tourism inaccurately estimated? D'Lima, C *, James Cook University; Welters, R James Cook University; Hamann, M James Cook University; Marsh, H James Cook University;

Abstract: Valuation of wildlife tourism may be used to justify wildlife conservation through its potential to support livelihoods. Central to valuing a wildlife tourist industry is establishing the tourist expenditures that are ‘attributable’ to a wildlife icon, a value crucially dependent on the degree to which the icon can be economically ‘substituted’ by other local attractions. Past wildlife tourism evaluations do not consider the spatial connectivity of tourist attractions in a destination and their resultant impact on the accurate economic value of the industry; we fill this gap by applying economic ‘substitutability’ between wildlife tourism and other tourist attractions in a destination. Using surveys and government visitation numbers, we found that dolphin-watching at Chilika Lagoon was ‘partially substituted’ by neighbouring attractions in the destination of Odisha (India); total expenditure attributable to dolphin-watching was USD 1.37 million locally, USD -0.38 million at neighbouring sites and USD 0.99 million in the destination. If dolphins are extirpated, local beneficiaries and the destination on the whole stand to lose, but neighbouring beneficiaries gain. Understanding local and destination-level substitution of wildlife tourism is necessary to appreciate its accurate valuation, and which stakeholders to target through management interventions; such studies can also be used to justify wildlife conservation to managers and policy makers.

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