Tue, Sep 25, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Hualien defends stance on whale-watching rules

KEEPING A DISTANCE:The three whale-watching firms in the county follow the Fisheries Agency’s rules and exercise self-discipline, the county said

By Wang Chun-chi and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tourists watch a sperm whale from a whale-watching boat in waters off Hualien County on Thursday last week .

Photo courtesy of Turumoan Whale Watching and Water Entertainment Co.

The Hualien County Government said it would continue to defer to Fisheries Agency regulations regarding whale-watching activities, adding that it is not planning to draft regulations under the county’s ordinance for self-government.

The announcement was in response to comments made by travel journalist Huang Chia-lin (黃佳琳) on a video provided by a whale-watching company.

Last week, Huang shared a video on Facebook and wrote that the whale-watching boats seen in the footage were too close to the sperm whale.

Whale-watching companies have been operating in Taiwan for more than 20 years, but there is still no government regulation of the industry, Huang said.

County government official Huang Yao-hsing (黃耀興) said the three whale-watching businesses in the county observed agency regulations and exercised great self-discipline.

Should the county government move to draft an ordinance on the matter, it would invite academics and experts on the subject, he said.

However, the county is not contemplating such a move, due to the procedure involved, he added.

The agency had called two public hearings regarding the whale-watching industry, but was not given a legal basis to establish binding legislation on the industry, Huang Yao-hsing said.

Whale-watching boats should slow down within 300m of whales and dolphins, and should only approach the animals from behind, Huang Yao-hsing said, citing regulations.

The boats should idle their engines within 80m of the whales and business operators should refrain from having too many boats circling the animals, Hung Yao-hsing said, adding that the boats should keep their distance from whales with calves.

Turumoan Whale Watching co-owner Lu Shih-ming (呂世明) said that the company has instructed its boats to idle their engines within 500m of whales and dolphins, and refrain from taking overt actions.

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