Aligning tourist, industry and government expectations

A case study from the swim with whales industry in Tonga

Megan Kessler*, Robert Harcourt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


Swimming with humpback whales in the Kingdom of Tonga is a growing industry that provides important revenue for a small Pacific Island economy. However the sustainability of this industry has been questioned due to its potential impact on the animals involved. The activity focuses on an 'endangered' subpopulation of humpback whales, with swimming occurring in the breeding area primarily with groups of animals containing young calves. This paper examines the relationship between the existing Tongan Government draft regulations and Tonga Whale Watching Operator Association guidelines that control the industry and visitor expectations about the management of the activity. There is significant support from visitors for strong, easy to understand and enforceable regulations governing the swim with whales industry. There is a clear correlation between current moves to strengthen Government regulations and the expectation from visitors that their activity is, and will be, conducted in a sustainable manner. The study recommends that to ensure compliance with regulations, appropriate management fees should be charged, visitors should be engaged in environmental education activities and further research should be conducted on the impacts of swimming with humpback whales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1350-1356
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Policy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

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