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Pacific Islands: First Regional Guidelines on Whale and Dolphin Watching

(Apr. 28, 2009) On March 29, 2009, on the eve of the first International Conference for Marine Mammal Protected Areas held in Maui, Hawaii, the first guidelines of the Pacific Islands region for whale and dolphin watching were issued, with a view to minimizing the potential impact of tourism activities on the marine mammals and their environment. The guidelines were developed by 35 representatives from 13 Pacific Islands' governments, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and Opération Cétacés, and have been endorsed by 25 SPREP member states and territories. According to Olive Andrews, IFAW Pacific Officer in Hawaii, “[a]lready many Pacific Island governments are taking steps to bring their current whale watching regulations in line with this new regional template and we encourage all commercial and private boaters to follow these sensible rules.” (New Rules for Responsible Whale Watching in the Pacific, IFAW website, Mar. 29, 2009, available at

IFAW, whose international headquarters are in Massachusetts, was founded 40 years ago by a small group of local citizens to protest the commercial hunt for white seals on Canada's eastern coast. It describes itself as now “the world's leading international animal welfare organization … with more than 200 experienced campaigners, legal and political experts, and internationally acclaimed scientists working from offices in 15 countries around the world.” (Who We Are, IFAW website, (last visited Apr. 22, 2009).) Based in Apia, Samoa, SPREP is the major regional organization “established by the governments and administrations of the Pacific region … charged with protecting and managing the [region's] environment and natural resources.” (SPREP's Structure, SPREP website, (last visited Apr. 22, 2009).) Opération Cétacés is a marine mammal research organization in New Caledonia, focusing on the long-term study of humpback whales. (Organisations Dedicated to the Conservation and Protection of Cetacea, (last visited Apr. 22, 2009).)