Global concern for whales is on the rise... more than 20,000 of these majestic mammals have been slaughtered for commercial purposes in the last 20 years.
Whale watching is the world's fastest growing ecotourism business, bringing in over US$1.25 billion worldwide each year. It's truly magical. The experience is a tourist's dream. Besides being wonderful to watch, whales provide enjoyment for humans in other ways. The songs of humpback whales fill many CDs of modern and new wave music producing
even more money from these marine giants.
Those who favor banning whaling suggest that ecotourism - hunting whales with cameras instead of spear guns - may be a saner solution to the economic problems of the whaling industry. In addition to the financial difficulties that whale hunting has experienced in the past few decades, it has become completely unnecessary.
On exhuberant display along the Pacific, humpback whales migrate seasonally from
Alaska to Hawaii, and can complete the 3,000 mile jourey trip in little over a month (photo courtesy NOAA).
For example, we no longer use whale oil for light, and whale meat is significantly less in demand in countries that used to consume large amounts of it, like Japan.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is partnering
with local whale watching companies to promote the protection of these awesome and gentle, creatures of the sea. Animal rights
groups hope that one outcome of the international conference will be a giant step towards the end of commercial whaling.
Where to see the whales
Almost 120 countries offer whale watching trips in far-flung locations around the globe ranging from Hawaii to Iceland. Among the top ten in the North America include coastal Maine and Acadia National Park (from mid-spring through October); Alaska's Inside Passage (June to August); Baja, California (February to April); and Vancouver Island (mid-June to October).