Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Dancing dolphins entertain the masses

Dolphin and whale-watching tours have become an increasingly popular part of Taiwan's eco-tourism initiative

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Going for a whale-watching trip costs around NT$800 for a two-hour cruise. The cost was NT$1,200 seven years ago. In recent years, because of keen competition, the price can be as low as NT$500 during the summer vacation.

As a result, perhaps, bad practices have become common, like boats chasing the cetaceans, frightening them off. Some of the boats have such big engines and motor so fast that they disrupt the whales and dolphins' lives.

According to research by marine biologist Bernd Wusigon, the presence of rapidly moving vessels -- from the small (5m to 10m) to mid-size (10m to 20m) -- can be disturbing to both baleen and toothed whales at distances below 5km. The species become more vulnerable and sometimes the noises affect the reproduction rate. Research by professor Chou Lien-siang (周蓮香) at National Taiwan University shows a similar result.

The owner of Turomoan Whale-Watching, Lin Chen-li agreed. He said originally, whale watching was

developed to promote eco-tourism, to teach people to preserve oceanic resources. But now the fast-growing business tends to neglect the essentials. Some whale-watching boats are even equipped with Karaoke. Unfortunately this only adds to the noise bombarding the whales and dolphins.

"On the sea, we [humans] are the guests and they [whales] are the real hosts. When you visit someone's home the minimal courtesy is to respect them, not to bother them too much. But a lot of people lack such basic manners."

The Fishery Bureau (漁業署) under the Council of Agricultural Affairs (農委會), which supervises whale and dolphin-watching activities in Taiwan, has asked county governments to set up guidelines for whale-watching businesses. But these guidelines are not effecive. There is no punishment in cases of violation.

In terms of the management of whale watching, there is still a lot of room for improvement compared with countries such as New Zealand, South Africa and Iceland, said Professor Chou Lien-hsiang during the Symposium on Cetacean Ecology and Conservation (鯨豚生態與保育研討會), which was held last week.

In the attempt to improve the tourist whale-watching service, the fishery bureau has now set up an evaluation system for whale-watching businesses. Owners that keep to the guidelines get the government-approved eco-tourism badge.

This story has been viewed 5695 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top