Saturated dolphin-watching sites can learn from Australian industry practices

2016-12-16 03:59:24 GMT2016-12-16 11:59:24(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

SYDNEY, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Dolphins at saturated watching sites in Asia risk being harmed and Australian industry practices can help alleviate the problem, latest research showed.

The study involved an international team of scientists who looked at popular dolphin-watching sites in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines between 2007 and 2014.

Any new operator who enters the dolphin-watching industry in these areas would not get much from it, with "the revenue per boatman on average actually declining because it has reached the maximum number of players it can accommodate", James Cook University's Dr Putu Liza Mustika, who was the main author in the latest findings published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, told Xinhua.

There were more than 850 operators in the dolphin-watching industry in Asia eight years ago and the number may "easily double" by this year, according to the paper.

The number of vessels operating in each of these sites can reach about 200 to more than 300, Mustika said, and these boats can cause stress to the cetaceans with their sheer number and proximity.

"For instance, it can disturb their resting behavior. It can disturb the mother-and-calf bond ... especially because they communicate by sound and whistling'. With the sound of the boat engine being so loud, the mother cannot hear the calf and there is a rupture in their bond."

Australian dolphin-watching operators' practices, especially in controlling the number of boats and how close they are allowed to go up to the animals, can help, Mustika said.

"Australia has strict whale and dolphin-watching guidelines. You must stop the vessel 50 meters from the dolphins and you must not approach the dolphins," she said.

"You must also turn off the engine, if it is safe for you to do so. There are no more than three boats around a group of dolphins.

"The Australian example can certainly be adopted at these places, with some adjustments."