[MARMAM] New publications on recent studies of whale-watching activities in Reunion Island

Quiétude quietude at cedtm-asso.org
Sun Nov 8 22:57:02 PST 2020


Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to announce the publication of our recent studies on
whale-watching activities on humpback whales off Reunion Island in the
Indian Ocean, available Open Access in Tourism in Marine Environments:

1) Hoarau, L., Dalleau, M., Delaspre, S., Barra, T. & Landes,
A.E. Assessing and Mitigating Humpback Whale (*Megaptera Novaeangliae*)
Disturbance of Whale-watching Activities in Reunion Island. Tourism in
Marine Environments <https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cog/tme>,
Volume 15, Numbers 3-4, 2020, pp. 173-189(17).
https://doi.org/10.3727/154427320X15943326793398

2) Barra, T., Bejder, L., Dalleau, M., Delaspre, S., Landes, A.E., Harvey,
M. & Hoarau, L. Social Media Reveal High Rates of Agonistic Behaviors of
Humpback Whales in Response to Swim-with Activities Off Reunion Island. Tourism
in Marine Environments <https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cog/tme>,
Volume 15, Numbers 3-4, 2020, pp. 191-209(19).
https://doi.org/10.3727/154427320X15960647825531

The corresponding abstracts are found below:

1) Assessing and Mitigating Humpback Whale (*Megaptera Novaeangliae*)
Disturbance of Whale-watching Activities in Reunion Island.

Whale watching, including swim-with-whales activities, is developing at an
enormous rate in Reunion Island. This is raising concerns about its impacts
on breeding humpback whales and challenging the sustainability of the
activity. In 2017, a dedicated-at-sea patrol team, "Quiétude," was created
to observe, monitor, and raise awareness to the whale watchers in order to
improve compliance with local guidelines. In this context, the team
assessed whale watching in Reunion Island during two humpback whale
breeding seasons in 2017 and 2018, between June and October. Sighted groups
were mostly composed of mother/calf pairs spending most of their time
resting near or at the surface. Whale-watching vessels were present in
85.1% of sightings, of which 68.4% were recreative. Swimwith-cetaceans
activities were very frequently observed in 42% of sightings. Overall,
compliance with the charter was as high as 68% of whale sightings with
vessels/swimmers were in line with the recommendations. However, low
compliance (32.8%) was observed with the specific recommendations of
swim-with-cetaceans activities. Swimmers were reported in surface active
groups displaying agonistic behaviors, which poses evident human safety
concerns. Humpback whale resting behaviors were disrupted significantly by
whale-watching activities. Humpback whales tended to avoid vessels and
swimmers, especially when their behavior was intrusive or not compliant
with the charter. Positive humpback whale responses were more likely to
occur if the charter's recommendations were not breached. Our results
highlight how a nonbinding regulation, with recommendations scrupulously
pursued, allows for a reduction in whale-watching disturbances and supports
a better tourism experience. Our results advocate for reinforcing tourism
education, whale-watching adaptive management and regulations, specifically
for vulnerable groups with a calf, and for the swim-with-whales activities.
This could be efficiently achieved by engaging all stakeholders and the
permanent team on the field "Quietude" to enhance dissemination of best
practices and sensitivity around sustainable values of implemented
regulations.

2) Social Media Reveal High Rates of Agonistic Behaviors of Humpback Whales
in Response to Swim-with Activities Off Reunion Island.

The effect of nature-based tourism on wildlife has been the focus of much
attention. Studies have demonstrated how boat-based cetacean-watching
tourism can cause both short-term and long-term effects on targeted
populations. However, limited attention has been given to the effect of
swim-with activities on humpback whales (*Megaptera novaeangliae*). This
study qualified whale responses to swim-with activities off Reunion Island
during the 2018 humpback whales breeding season. We used both under- and
above-water videos collected from social media outlets, commercial
whale-watching operators, and audiovisual professionals. We documented a
high rate of agonistic whale behaviors (during 42.1% of all observations;
* n* = 164) towards swimmers within videos containing swim-with events. We
documented seven agonistic behaviors including threat, attack, or defense
behaviors that were predominantly exhibited by mother/calf groups (73.8%;
* n* = 121) and by singletons (16.5%;* n*= 27). Pectoral shears (27.4%) and
fluke thrashes (23.2%) were the most exhibited agonistic whale behaviors
aimed towards swimmers, both of which pose a danger and serious injury to
swimmers. During swim-with attempts whales changed their behavioral state
(82.3%,* n* = 159) and used avoidance tactics to avoid swimmers (56.1%,* n* =
92). Whales exhibited a higher rate of agonistic behaviors when swim groups
were active and dispersed, in contrast to when they were quiet and compact.
To mitigate whale disturbance and improve swimmer safety, we recommend
avoiding swimming with whale groups containing calfs. Our findings support
the implementation of strong regulations and educational tools to ensure a
sustainable practice of whale watching off the Reunion Island.


Please do not hesitate in contacting us at this email address for any
questions.

All the best,


*Equipe Quiétude - Observation respectueuse des cétacés et tortues marines
à La Réunion*
https://cedtm-asso.org/quietude/

*>> 100 Mesures pour dessiner l'avenir de l'activité d'observation des
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*Centre d'Etude et de Découverte des Tortues Marines (CEDTM)*
Rés. M. Rishna, Appt 5 - 6, chemin Dubuisson
<https://drive.google.com/open?id=1UoHvQs0TpUyzyE9N7rV-vZTOiEc>
97436 Saint Leu, La Réunion
Tel : (+262) 02 62 91 35 28
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