Niue's tourism director says whales aren't being harassed
Reports that Niue's tourism operators have been harassing the humpback whales which visit the island have been dismissed.
Niue's director of Tourism has quashed claims that humpback whales are being harassed by visitors.
A number of people have expressed concern about the level of interaction tourists are having with the mammals, and how close they are getting to them.
Niue's waters are considered to be a sanctuary for the whales, which brings a lot of people to the region to see them.
Vanessa Marsh told Lucy Smith a stakeholders meeting was held with three whale watching operators and Niue's fishing community to discuss the complaints.
VANESSA MARSH: Some of the members of public had expressed concerns that they felt the whales were getting too much interaction from the boats from those who are licensed who whale watch here in Niue and they it would be good to perhaps encourage more of the land based whale siting activities rather than the marine based. Niue is a prime location for land based whale watching because we're so highly elevated from shore that you can enjoy them as they come in close as 50 metres to the land.
LUCY SMITH: What must licensed whale watchers abide by when they are working or looking at a whale?
VM: Under the guidelines for whale watchers to adhere to they are not to go any closer than 100 metres to a mother and calf, They can approach up to 50 metres if it's a single full adult, They need to be aware of how they approach the whale - not to approach from behind or front on, Not to put the whale between the boat and the cliff, The time they spend with whale is also regulated and prescribed under the regulations.
LS: So there is no truth in claims that whales are at risk or being harassed by tourism operators or people in the area who want to look at them?
VM: No I don't think the claims have been substantiated. The Tourism Office from our perspective, we pride ourselves on being able to work closely with our operators and we do take any concerns that the public have seriously. The whole perception of distance from when you are observing something on land to when you're out at sea, the distances are very hard to compare, and unless you're using specialised equipment, to be able to tell you how far point A is from point B, it can get quite distorted and you can't hand on heart or 100% say this vessel approached closer than 50 metres to a whale.
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