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New Regulations for Whale Watching

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Tougher rules for whale watchers


IRRESPONSIBLE  behavior by some tourist operators has led to tougher regulations for whale and dolphin watching from  October  2.

The Ministry of Environment has created new protocol of whale watching (whales and dolphins) which imposes stricter sanctions.

The practice, which has grown ecotourism in the country sometimes disturbs the marine species and their environment.

In recent decades the interaction of humans with cetaceans (dolphins and whales), through tourism, grew considerably in Panama  reports La Prensa Although there is a regulation introduced  in  2007, scientists, biologists,  and authorities of the Ministry of Environment agree that the activity is growing and in some areas, is practiced “irresponsibly”.

Throughout Panama  there are about eight localities where the sighting of Cetaceans, is pactised including Contadora Island and the Las Perlas archipelago  along with  the Coiba National Park, in Veraguas; the gulf of Chiriquí and Isla Colón, in Bocas del Toro. In the latter area, physical damage to several dolphins has occurred  and  one of the mammals was killed, There is concern in  the scientific community because this type of “uncontrolled” activity can disrupt species of both whales and dolphins.

Reports from the Ministry of Environment note that between June and October, about 2,000 whales arrive from Antarctica to warm Panamanian waters. The  migration covers about 10,000 kilometers.

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute scientist Héctor Guzman says that whales arriving from the Southern Hemisphere are currently in Panama, attracting a lot of tourists. “As they are migratory species, they must be protected to ensure   ustainable tourism in the country,” he said.

Guzman stressed that if not properly checked tourists will not know if the tourist operators are committing some infraction. “We are aware of vessels that closely follow mothers with offspring and this situation is due to the lack of supervision, “he added.



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Whale harassment facing $10,000 fines


PANAMA’S Environment  MINISTRY (MiAmbiente) has introduced fines of up to $10,000 for harassment of whales and dolphins.

The measure announced Wednesday, October 18 seeks to guarantee the safety of those involved and to avoid stress to the species, which represent a potential for ecotourism.

A resolution adopted five days earlier establishes fines ranging from $1,000 for approaching less than 250 meters, up to $5,000 for approaching less than 50 meters and for recidivism double the fine or up to $10,000.

Environmentalists welcomed the move, but eyebrows were raised when it was equated with tourism revenue.

Environment Minister Emilio Sempris said: “this regulation was necessary, as we are experimenting with a major boom in ecotourism in Panama, and we do not want the irresponsible sighting of whales and dolphins off our coasts and seas, impacting the balance of the ecosystem and the income that  is generated for the country  by this ecotourism activity.”



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