Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watching in Europe

go directly to the
Coastal Guide to Responsible Whale Watching

read some background information first:

Europe offers ample opportunity for Whale and Dolphin watching, as millions of people have already experienced. Whale watching has over the years become a booming business, replacing the killing of whales by watching them - with the exception of Norway and Japan. Every year, in Europe alone, more than 2 million people participate in a trip to see whales and dolphins, spending over 200 million euros. Watching whales and dolphins has socio-economic benefits for local people, as many fishermen have found another job and a future. And you, as a visitor, can enjoy a spectacular and educational experience - if you are lucky and if the operators behave as they should, because a report presented by EUCC-The Coastal Union indicates that only a minority of whale watching operators is willing to report on their environmental performance and many of them do not adopt guidelines to limit impacts on the animals and the marine environment.
In a pursuit of short-term profits not all operators have enough respect for the animals, and their boats often move too fast and too close to them. The resulting impacts of noise, pollution and disturbance on whales and dolphins can be considerable. Australian research has shown that cetaceans that were disturbed too much suffered from reduced reproduction. Several international organisations have consequently developed minimum guidelines aimed at providing a framework for local or national regulations.

Minimum Guidelines and an assessment of operators
In an effort to promote sustainable whale watching and as a contribution to the International Year of Ecotourism, the EUCC and the University of Amsterdam in 2002 launched an assessment of all european Whale Watching Operators with regard to a list of 15 minimum guidelines. More than 40 Operators responded to the call for self-assessment. The results are published on the internet and are updates every year. Visitors who want to avoid finding themselves in doubtful manoeuvres can now check the performance of operators on the Coastal Guide to Whale Watching before booking.
Promoting sustainable Whale Watching is an ongoing project of EUCC. Independent evaluations of operators andfurther research are necessary to improve the information given in the guide. We therefore invite everyone to participate in its development by sending in feedbacks, encouraging new operators to assess themselves and informing more visitors about this website. You can also print out our poster and put it up in public places:

If you have been on a whale and dolphin-watching trip and have experienced bad performance of operators please give us feedback so we can communicate with the operator. This mechanism is also meant to encourage operators to assess themselves in an honest way. But please consider that sometimes given conditions (e.g. bad wheather or participation in research programmes) must be held eligible for an operator violating one of the guidelines.

Operators who want to be included in the Coastal Guide to Whale Watching can fill out this checklist, we will then assess your environmental performance.

Report and Article
If you want to learn more about EUCC's whale and dolphin watching research, you can take a look at the report and a short article that has been published in EUCC's magazine Coastline.


Hopefully this guide will help you navigate your way into the world of whales, dolphins and operators. However, please bear in mind when planning a trip that hundred percent certainty of meeting a whale can never be promised. So don't travel very far to make a trip; only consider the option when you already plan to be close to a responsible operator.


Useful links

finding related info:

Marine Connection
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)
International Whaling Commission (IWC)
Greenpeace (Whales Site)
WWF (flagship species "Great Whales" Programme)

becoming an ecovolunteer:

Blue World

booking an ecotourist holiday trip:

Discover the World (UK) (Germany)