Press Release - Pacific guidelines for whale and dolphin watching have been launched on the eve of the first International Conference for Marine Mammal Protected Areas in Maui, Hawaii.

The Pacific Regional Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching have been developed through a partnership of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Operation Cetaces.

They will be presented to the country members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) at the 2009 annual meeting for endorsement from the Pacific region.

The Guidelines aim to minimise the potential impacts of tourism activities on whales, dolphins and their environment. Their development was a priority action for SPREP under the 2008 - 2012 Whale and Dolphin Action Plan.

"These are guidelines targeted at assisting member countries and territories to develop their own national guidelines as well as conditions and regulations relevant and appropriate to their own situation. The best thing we can do is have the guidelines available so that as the industry grows, Governments can adopt what is relevant and appropriate to them to ensure a more responsible and sustainable environment for us all," said Lui Bell, SPREP's Marine Species Officer.

There is a growing potential for whale watching as a tourist attraction in the Pacific Islands region. A review of Pacific islands whale watch tourism in 2005 indicated a tenfold increase of tourists and Pacific islanders watching whales and dolphins in the region within a seven-year period from 1998.

The review also estimated that more than 110,700 visits were made to watch whales and dolphins compared to 1998, when 10,300 visits were made, with an estimated total expenditure (direct plus indirect expenditure) on whale watching tourism over USD 21 million for the region, up from USD 1.2 million in 1998.

"The Pacific Regional Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin recognise several successes. The availability of working tools to strengthen sustainable development of the whale and dolphin watching industry in the Pacific, both for the industry and for the marine animals involved."

"The guidelines also celebrate a successful working collaboration and partnership between those who combined efforts. This is a very significant document in the work of Marine Species and is testimony to the strength of partnerships and cooperation."

The Pacific Regional Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching are available at: