Sustainable Management & Monitoring
Working Toward A Sustainable Industry
In 2002 a Workshop (entitled “Management of Swim-With-Dwarf Minke Whale Activities in the Northern Great Barrier Reef”; held on 19th April) involving 33 stakeholders (including swim-with-minke whales tourism operators, wider tourism industry representatives, State and Commonwealth government management agency staff and researchers) discussed the key management issues, reviewed the Code of Practice and identified potential performance indicators for the GBR swim-with-minke whales tourism industry. The primary objective for swim-with-dwarf minke whales tourism in the GBR, established at this Workshop, was “to achieve ecologically sustainable swim-with-minke whale activities within the GBRWHA“. The two sub-objectives were:
- To maintain the dwarf minke whale population in the GBRWHA
- To allow sustainable tourism interaction with dwarf minke whales in the GBRWHA
The difficulties in measuring these objectives were explicitly recognised, however a range of potential indicators were proposed for monitoring, including:
- Industry effort
- The cohort of whales involved in interactions
- The potential for cumulative effects
- Changes in whales’ behaviour, and
- The effects of noise from vessels (Birtles et al., 2002)
A PhD study by Curnock (2010) sought to develop a comprehensive framework for evaluating the sustainability of the GBR SWW activity, using a Quadruple-Bottom-Line (QBL) reporting model ( see Fig. 1), encompassing ecological, social, economic and management elements. Stakeholders were engaged over 2006-2008 and contributed to the development of 39 QBL sustainability objectives specific to the GBR swim-with activity.
Sustainability objectives for the GBR SWW industry and stakeholders
The following sustainability objectives were adopted with unanimous support from participants at stakeholder workshops held over 2007 and 2008:
1. Ecological objectives
1.1 The GBR dwarf minke whale population size and structure are not impacted by human influences.
- The interacting GBR dwarf minke whale population size and structure are not changed by the swimming-with-whales activity.
- Stakeholders of the GBR swimming-with-dwarf minke whales tourism industry promote, and achieve support for, the conservation of dwarf minke whales and their habitat.
1.2 The GBR dwarf minke whale population is not displaced from its key habitats (e.g. feeding, breeding grounds, migratory paths) as a result of human influences.
- Dwarf minke whales are not displaced from the areas where they are commonly seen in the GBR as a result of interactions with vessels and swimmers.
1.3 Dwarf minke whales are not physically harmed as a result of their interactions with vessels and swimmers.
1.4 Dwarf minke whales initiate and voluntarily maintain all their interactions with vessels and swimmers.
1.5 Dwarf minke whales are not impeded from following their life-sustaining behaviour patterns (e.g. feeding, resting, nursing, socialising and reproducing) as a result of human influences.
- The energy and behavioural budgets of dwarf minke whales are not significantly altered as a result of the swimming-with-whales activity.
1.6 Dwarf minke whales do not show signs of disturbance as a result of repeated interactions with vessels and swimmers.
1.7 Dwarf minke whales are not habituated as a result of the swimming-with-whales activity.
1.8 The habitat of the GBR dwarf minke whale population is conserved in perpetuity.
- Swimming-with-whales endorsed tourism operators in the GBR operate in an ecologically sustainable way.
2. Social objectives
2.1 Swimming-with-whales endorsed tourism operators in the GBR:
- provide a consistently high-quality experience for all participants.
- use high quality interpretation to promote further understanding and appreciation of dwarf minke whales, other cetaceans and marine life in the GBR.
- implement risk management procedures to minimise the risk of harm to participants.
- foster a greater awareness of sustainability and the conservation of whales and other marine life among their crew and passengers.
- contribute to improving our knowledge and understanding of the biology, behaviour and ecology of dwarf minkes (and hence potentially other whale species) by supporting scientific research.
- achieve and maintain the support of the local community, such that it values the whales and the industry, for its sustainable use of the Reef and interactions with the whales.
2.2 Swimming-with-whales participants:
- are familiar with the Code of Practice before they encounter dwarf minke whales.
- are prepared for their encounter, with realistic expectations of minke interactions.
- comply with the Code of Practice.
- contribute to research and monitoring of dwarf minke whales.
- have an outstanding minke experience.
2.3 Researchers studying dwarf minke whales in the GBR:
- communicate relevant findings to all stakeholders in an ongoing collaborative learning process.
3. Economic objectives
3. Swimming-with-dwarf minke whales tourism in the GBR is an economically sustainable industry.
Swimming-with-whales endorsed tourism operators in the GBR:
- are resilient to short-term market fluctuations and adaptable to long-term market trends.
- contribute adequately to the conservation of the resource on which they depend.
- contribute adequately to the local community.
4. Management objectives
4.1 Management of the GBR swimming-with-dwarf minke whales tourism industry:
- is widely acknowledged as World’s Best Practice.
- involves all stakeholders in a collaborative and participatory process.
- contributes to capacity building and knowledge sharing between all stakeholders.
- is transparent in all decision making processes.
- is informed by and responsive to relevant findings from scientific research.
- applies the Precautionary Principle.
- adapts and responds to changes in the social-ecological system (i.e. the environment or resource, the industry and society at a broader scale).
- utilises appropriate planning processes (e.g. the Limits of Acceptable Change process) to ensure efficient and equitable use of the resource at a sustainable scale.
- operates within an adaptive management framework.
4.2 Swimming-with-whales endorsed tourism operators in the GBR:
- comply with all relevant management requirements.