How does whale watching affect the whales?

In many places, whale watching might consist in trying to get as close to the whales as possible to get the best photos. As this may seem very normal and desired for some curious tourists, we should think about this fact and consider if this practice bothers the whales.
Some species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are very endangered nowadays. And this is mainly because of our fault… because in the past (and currently in some countries) we used to hunt them and because of the pollution we face nowadays. 
Here in the Azores we have some rules to keep when we are in the company of these beautiful creatures.
“It’s time to end the cruel slaughter of whales and leave these magnificent creatures alone.” Paul McCartney
Futurismo Azores Adventures has a commitment with the minimum standards for Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watching, a document we helped to develop with our partners in the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA). These standards are an extra to our compliance with local guidelines for a safe approach to whales and dolphins at all times. Our many vessels share sightings information, coordinate viewing schedules and minimize boat traffic.
These guidelines are endorsed by the Government of Azores (Directiva Regional Nº9/1999 de 22 de Março).
In the Azores, the current guidelines stipulate that 50 meters are the approach limit to cetaceans and that the vessels stay 100 meters away when whale calves are present, 300 meters when 3 or more vessels are in the presence of dolphins and 500 meters when 3 or more vessels are in the presence of whales. 
Whales and dolphins are very intelligent animals and think for their own and they don’t know the rules. Sometimes they are the ones that approach us. In that case, if a whale approaches us, and if it’s unsafe for us to get off the way, the engines are idled until the whale has passed and it’s safe to move away.
There are also regulations that govern speed of vessels around the whales (4 knots within
500 meters). Studies have shown that speed determines the noise level. By moving slowly near the whales, we keep noise to a minimum.
When the observation is finished or whenever the animals show signs of stress, the vessels must move from the approaching area.
 During our whale watching tours, you will have the company of a marine biologist that will inform you about the biodiversity of our oceans and will try to answer to all your curiosities. We like to explain you about the species you see, the behavior of the animals and the many threats that nowadays they face, hopefully you will learn with us about them and about several conservation measures you can take to help protect these animals and transmit these measures to your closest ones.
When we do whale watching we also need to have in mind that we are the ones visiting their homes, and we must respect them, the same way we like to be respected when we are in our homes.
“Ten percent of the big fish still remain. There are still some blue whales. There are still some krill in Antarctica. There are a few oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Half the coral reefs are still
in pretty good shape, a jeweled belt around the middle of the planet. There’s still time, but not a lot, to turn things around.”
Sylvia Earle
Written by Andreia Vieira
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