Dolphin Watching in the Southern Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, Philippines: Issues and Challenges

Lemnuel V. Aragones, Liana Talaue-McManus, Mary Anne A. Roque, Apple Kristine S. Amor, Edward O. Keith†


Dolphin watching is a growing economic activity in the southern Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS), the Philippines, an area that is also heavily exploited by fisheries. In order to examine the issues and challenges in this growing industry, we monitored relevant information regarding cetacean watching, conducted focus group discussions (FGDs) and educational seminar-workshops for various local stakeholders from 2004 to 2006, and followed these up from 2008-2012. From 9 May to 16 August 2004, we conducted structured interviews to determine the perceptions of cetacean-watching tourists (CWTs) and assess the level of local knowledge of fishers and non-fishers (NFs) regarding marine mammals and environmental management in this area. Ninety five (95) CWTs, 100 local fishers, and 64 NFs were interviewed. Sixty seven percent (n=64) of the CWTs believed that the overall quality of tours was impressive primarily because they were able to watch, at reasonable costs, large groups of dolphins in close proximity and in an almost pristine environment. The majority of CWTs (~91%) felt that there is a need to develop a ‘Special Management Plan’ (SMP) for the southern TSPS focusing on cetaceans and their habitats. The increasing number of dolphin watching boats, heavy exploitation of f ishing ground, misperception of local fishers that cetaceans are competitors with f isheries, and lack of a SMP or a Management Plan per se for TSPS warranted the facilitation of a participatory management process to protect the cetaceans and their habitats. This study has shown that even with only preliminary results, survey interviews of key stakeholders in combination with FGDs and seminar-workshop could be critical in facilitating a participatory management process. In the case of the TSPS, this participatory approach led to the formation of the Tañon Strait Association of Dolphin and Whale Watching Operators, Inc. (TaSADoWWI), and eventual development of cetacean watching protocols for the area. All of these highlight the importance of following a participatory process, empowering stakeholders, and monitoring relevant information (e.g. , numbers of cetacean watching tourists, cetacean watching boats and its impacts, fisheries, dolphin behaviour and abundance) to ensure the longterm sustainability of dolphin watching and f isheries in southern TSPS area.

Keywords: Dolphin watching, cetacean watching, dolphins, whales, perception, participatory management process, fisheries, Tañon Strait, Philippines

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