Travel companies in many countries offer the chance to get up close to whales and dolphins by swimming alongside them in the sea. But there is growing concern that in some areas heavily targeted by commercial swim tours, there may be a long-term impact on the health and wellbeing of the animals.
According to Julian Matthews of Discovery Initiatives (discoveryinitiatives.co.uk), which runs a Swim with Killer Whales trip in Norway, it depends on how the trip is managed: “The trip has to be run in small numbers, there have to proper permits in place for boat handlers and the frequency of the tours has to be carefully monitored; above all there has to be an acceptance that it is a privilege not a right to be with the animals.”
However, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (0870 8700027, wdcs.org), which runs its own whale-watching holidays, has decided to not include swim tours on its holidays. It recommends only boat-based holidays, with a naturalist on board and a boat handler who has taken one of the voluntary codes of conduct, such as the Dolphin Space program (dolphinspace.org), or the WiSe (Wildlife Safe) scheme (wisescheme.org).
This article, by Richard Hammond, was first published in the Guardian.