Japanese tourism operators to promote whale and dolphin watching as alternative to whaling

by Tom Maddocks and wires

Updated Fri 6 Jun 2014, 11:03am AEST

Tourism operators in Japan have launched an initiative to promote whale and dolphin watching in the waters off the country’s many islands.

With figures showing the industry is growing at six per cent a year, the Japan Whale and Dolphin Watching Council held its first meeting in Tokyo this week.

There are now more than 200 operators in the whale and dolphin watching industry which campaigners say offers a positive alternative to the slaughter of the mammals.

They say the industry is burgeoning and with it, the promise of bringing much-needed cash to coastal communities.

The keynote speaker at the launch, Erich Hoyt, a senior research fellow with the charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation, says Japan’s national effort to promote whale and dolphin watching gives the operators the possibility of marketing internationally.

He says while the industry is very much homegrown, there is big potential to attract business from other parts of Asia and North America.

“The economic benefits of whale and dolphin watching are that you have businesses that are operating generally in rural areas or coastal ports which are far from Tokyo,” he said.

“[They] need a diversified source of income and this sort of tourism income … will flow through to the local community.

“There are some really great examples in Australia and New Zealand of this happening and the documented economic benefits are really clear.”

Mr Hoyt says a lot of people in Japan are ready to look at whales and dolphins in a new way.

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