Seal Watching: An investigation of codes of conduct
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Seal watching as a form of wildlife tourism is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. Behavioral changes caused by the presence of tourists could lead to negative consequences for seal welfare and may affect reproduction and survival. Therefore, managing seal watching activities to ensure future protection and conservation is important. Codes of conduct or guidelines for how to behave around animals are one way to regulate wildlife watching and are often easier and quicker to implement than laws. Codes explaining the consequences for wildlife if the code is not followed appeal to the moral obligation of tourists and thereby increase incentives to act appropriately. This study focused on analyzing the content of codes of conducts for seal watching. Codes of conducts (n=33) accessible on the internet during the time of study were analysed. Results show that in many areas where seal watching occurs there are no regulations or guidelines. The content and detail of the codes varied and the information was often insufficient to offer adequate protection of seals. Few of the codes were developed in cooperation with scientists or stated that the content was based on research. Further, a majority of the codes did not explain the consequences for wildlife if the code was not followed. More research on seals and the tourists watching them is needed to better understand the effects of tourism and how disturbance could be minimised. Meanwhile, developing an international code of conduct (with local additions) built on existing knowledge in the field, could be one option to increase protection and ensure conservation of these animals. The results presented in this paper could assist the development of such a code of conduct.
Tourism in Marine Environments
Wildlife and Habitat Management