Evaluation of the sustainability of the swim-with-whales activity has been a core focus of research by the Minke Whale Project since field studies began in 1996.
Arnold and Birtles (1999) identified and discussed a wide range of risks and published the first Code of Practice for swimming with dwarf minke whales (as an appendix). Birtles, Arnold and Dunstan (2002) identified a range of risks associated with the swim-with activity, which led to the development of a number of potential sustainability indicators in a 2002 stakeholder workshop.
The PhD study by Curnock (2010) included the collaborative development of a comprehensive suite of sustainability objectives for the swim-with-whales activity, based on a Quadruple-Bottom-Line reporting model (see our page on sustainable management and monitoring for details).
A range of sustainability indicators to measure progress towards many (but not all) of the sustainability objectives were developed and evaluated over 2006-2008 as part of the PhD studies by Mangott (2010), Sobtzick (2010) and Curnock (2010). Important research tools and methods that are used in the ongoing monitoring of these indicators include:
- Photo-identification of individual whales (long-term study)
- Length estimations via underwater videogrammetry (to monitor population demographics)
- The Whale Sighting Sheets
- Vessel Movement Logs and other industry effort data
- Passenger questionnaires
- Behavioural studies (including crew and passenger reports & logs)