Since the beginning of this century, dolphin watching gradually became an economic activity on which dozens of families now rely on for their livelihood. However, for several years, the lack of rules and regulations was jeopardising the sustainability of this type of income. Joint efforts of marine NGOs since the 1990s led to a better understanding of marine mammals, that is dolphins and whales, around mainland Mauritius. These NGOs became increasingly aware of the threat to marine mammals posed by unregulated dolphin watching activity. Studies were undertaken and proposals made to the Tourism Authority. In June 2006, the Tourism Authority came forward with guidelines for the Dolphin Watching industry. On its website, the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society (MMCS) gives a fuller account of the history of the project, and we quote from it:
“In August and September 2006, the MMCS submitted two reports to the Tourism Authority:
- An initial assessment report of the project “Sustainable Management of the Dolphin Watching industry in Mauritius” (A. Cadinouche)
- An evaluation of the Dolphin Watching industry in the western region between August and September 2006 (A. Cadinouche). Please click here to view the PDF (in French).
These reports describe the problems that are linked to the Dolphin Watching industry in Mauritius and the consequences that these problems could generate in the short and long term.
Further to the submission of these reports, the Tourism Authority offered its support to the MMCS for the establishment of a Steering Committee named “Dolphin Watching”. The aim of this Steering Committee was to regularly bring together the different participants of the Dolphin Watching industry (Government representatives, NGOs, Tour Operator representatives) in order to discuss the decisions to be taken for the proper regulation of the activity.
Being aware of the rapid increase of the industry, the authorities decided in March 2008 to move forward by setting up a veritable regulation. This process has taken much longer than expected, finally being implemented in March 2013.
Throughout this period, while conducting the research, MMCS has continued to run awareness campaigns and training workshops for dolphin watching operators, hotel staff, schools, tourists and the general public.”
It has been noticed that these regulations are however not respected in too many instances. This is most unfortunate and is cause for concern. For the benefit of the marine mammals, we share the Tourism Authority (Dolphin and Whale Watching) Regulations 2012 GN No. 154 of 2012 gazetted on 1 September 2012.
“prohibited zone” —
(a) in relation to a dolphin, means the zone within a radius of 50 metres from the closest dolphin;
(b) in relation to a whale, means the zone within a radius of 100 metres from the closest whale;
“regulated zone” —
(a) in relation to a dolphin, means the zone from a radius of 50 metres to a radius of 150 metres, from the closest dolphin;
(b) in relation to a whale, means the zone from a radius of 100 metres to a radius of 200 metres, from the closest whale;