Written by Flynn Moore
Marine tourism, especially boat-based tours & in-water experiences have been increasingly in popularity in recent years and even more so after the height of the pandemic as countries seek to promote their unique marine environments for “staycations”. Experiencing a country or region and its marine inhabitants from the water is a thrilling experience and one that will stay with you for life. However, these tours can have negative impacts on the marine species themselves, especially larger marine mammals such as seals, whales & dolphins. Therefore it’s especially important to know how to behave on these tours to keep your enjoyment to a maximum and negative impacts to a minimum! Here’s a quick run down of how to be the best sustainable marine tourist you can be.
First up – noise. You may not realise but most marine mammal species are very sensitive to noise and can be spooked very easily. This doesn’t just cause them upset but can also impact how they bond with and feed their young during pupping seasons. You’ll likely be familiar with how dolphins use sound to communicate and navigate – seals do the same! So if you’re going on a boat-based tour, remember to keep chatting etc. to a minimum once you being to approach the animals. If you have small children with you gently remind them they need to be quiet in order to see the seals at their best. For this reason, animals shouldn’t be brought on these tours unless they are essential service animals as loud noises from dogs can spook seals as well. This advice extends to land-based tours or self-guided walks – do not bring dogs onto beaches where there are seals hauled out and humans should never approach seals on land either!
Another important part of being a good marine tourist (or any tourist for that matter) is making sure you do not leave the environment you’re visiting worse off than before you came. Litter is still such a huge issue not only in the UK but also worldwide and it’s important to remember that on boat-based tours it may be windy so litter can very easily be blown into the sea. In light of this, minimise the amount of single-use plastic you bring onboard and bring any hot drinks/snacks etc. in reusable tubs that are safely stored away once used. Plastic pollution can have such a negative impact on marine species either by ingestion or entanglement so it’s essential to stop marine littering, even if unintentional.
Keeping tourism enjoyable yet sustainable is doable and it’s important to consider your carbon footprint when travelling to these marine boat/land tours. If you’re travelling a large distance to visit a particular area consider if you can experience something similar closer to home. If not and you’d still like to travel then try to minimise the impact on the planet by choosing less carbon-heavy options – such as travelling by rail or travelling as a group if you’re going with family/friends. Air travel should be avoided as much as possible even as tempting as a sun-soaked trip may be.
Use these tips the next time you’re planning on going on a marine tour to keep your experience sustainable for you, the animals & of course the planet we live on. Stick to marine operators that strive for tours that don’t impact the animals negatively whilst still providing a life-changing experience – check the WiSe Scheme site for a list of WiSe accredited marine tours in the UK.