A Future for whale watching

Whale watching has been a booming industry in Norway, having taken precedence over waning whale hunting traditions. Yet, the increase of tours has introduced a new set of challenges for the cetaceans, including underwater ship noise and disturbance, which is increasingly threatening their feeding and breeding success. Termed “silent whale watching”, a whale watching tour provider explores hybrid ship technologies as a sustainable whale watching alternative that aims to reduce disturbance on the marine mammals. Therein, an electric engine is employed when approaching the cetaceans at sea, together with an educational program led by marine biologists on board. This story explores alternative solutions to resolve the complex intersection of tourism and conservation.

I linger on deck, frozen with my camera ready, as an incredible sight unfolds before my eyes. Approximately 20 orcas and four humpback whales are in the midst of a feeding session, as two sea eagles hover above them and bicker over a herring. The sunset paints the Arctic sky in pastel colours, as orcas curiously spy hop and dive in the vicinity of our boat. Meanwhile, the humpbacks emerge from the water with a loud thud, gulping down their prey with their mouths wide open.

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