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New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering ​hi I'm Alicia Emerson and the capstone that I'm going to present to you today is an international study on well watching along the Pacific coast following the gray whale migration and so I know we're a little tired after lunch here so I'm going to have you um be a little interactive for a moment and just raise your hand if you can remember the first time that you saw a whale on a whale-watching boat and I want to bring you back to that really exhilarating moment of that first experience because for me this project included a lot of first when even kissing a baby very well so the broad began with three major objectives first I established how regional best practices of well watching were applied by operators along the Pacific coast I followed the gray whale migration taking notes along the way looking at their different regulations and guidelines from the Baja Peninsula in Mexico along the US Coast and all the way to the cold waters of Canada's British Columbia second I distributed an online survey to determine how operators view the importance of guidelines in their area and then third and most important I determine the level of receptivity of regional and international endorsement programs from the while watching businesses so baleen whale views very long plates to skim and strain small fish krill and crustaceans from the water baleen whales migrate very long distances between their foraging area and the reproductive area so it makes it makes it very difficult to study with the impacts of well watching along this journey this is the first study to actually follow baleen whales aboard while watching vessels so I made notes regarding the guidelines and or regulations in each area and found some interesting patterns in my data so I'll cut to the chase and show you what I found as an anonymous tourist I collected data aboard six canadian vessels 25 us vessels and 12 mexican vessels and within the lagoons in baja de california mexico while watching is firmly self regulated by the operators and by the whale-watching companies and within these lagoons that regulations are actively enforced whereas in the US and canada there are general guidelines but they're not enforced for baleen whales within the Baja lagoons there are specific areas designated to well watching which you can see here and this is where the boat traffic can actually go where the rest of the lagoon is completely closed off to all boat traffic and this conservation measure actually allows the well to decide whether it not whether or not it wants to be well watched in the US and Canada there are no specific area set aside for well watching and one can run a while watching business virtually from any coast in the Baja lagoons operators must obtain permits and they must join self-regulated programs a limited number of pongas are allowed in the whale watching area at one time so the operators are witnessing each other's actions as you can see here which helps to reinforce their regulations and pongas are these small boats that are launched from the beach the Baja lagoons lie within the second largest biosphere in the world Oh busy Cano and the Mexican government and enacted the first well sanctuary within this biosphere reserve which was San Ignacio Lagoon there are many marine protection areas along the coast of the US and Canada but none of them include well watching so the next thing I wanted to look at is the importance of guidelines and so I asked while watching business along Canada in the US about what they saw as most important and I received 50 responses back from my online surveys so i didn't have trouble getting responses um these are the basic set of guidelines and their responses and the two that I most towards the top that we're kind of ethical and very um hard to monitor in the field was avoiding disturbing natural behavior and do not evoke reaction from a well and um something that is more of a direct action would be easy to monitor for compliance and I thought maybe something like staying 100 yards away or viewing time of 30 minutes it's much more easy to view for compliance measurements and these ranked a little bit lower one direct action that I saw happen in the field quite often it was boats that wanted to comply with avoiding radicals speech speed and directional changes while approaching viewing and leaving the will and not only did I see this happen in the field they also ranked pretty high on the guidelines for importance um all that one of these guidelines received a one on one or more survey except for viewing time of 30 minutes or less and although it never received a 143 percent of the survey operators marked this guideline as a three so ranking and importance um so in Mexico Wales approach both and I refer to this as an encounter so it encounters when the well approaches a boat and there's direct human contact and in the u.s. I refer to pursuit and Canada I refer to pursuits of whale so this is where the whale watching boat is watching from a distance

and follows a whale for a non specific amount of time so twice in Mexico we had no encounters and although we saw plenty of whales in the lagoons um eight times we had one encounter and all tours within the lagoons are 90 minutes long and it's really their choice the Wells choice if it comes to the Columbia to interact with humans operators provide three tours per day and the reserve is open from eight to six pm in the u.s. i graphed all pursuits in US and canada and i wanted to look at dolphins orcas in harbour porpoise and most the time while watching companies want to show tour some type of cetaceans so that's why I recorded every pursuit and this chart shows the number of pursuits / whale watching tour 7 of the 24 times there were three pursuits in one while watching tour and this shows that two to three pursuits might be expected within the 225 our tours that were provided by operators operators also provide more than one tour per day typically and and they have multiple boats in their fleet offering multiple tours-operators do not have to obtain a while watching permit and there's no regulation on how many pursuits they can have during a tour while onboard the US and Canadian boats I also time to each pursuit to see if the well watching operators abided by the 30 minute or less guideline and this is what i found my graphs are focused strictly on baleen whales here so i did not include adonis eat whale species in a tutu for our tour when a whale is found during the first pursuit sixty percent of the time the operator will stay with that whale more than 30 minutes and um I found that this leaves less time for additional pursuits and my data shows that additional pursuits two three four and five were actually 80 to 100 percent less than 30 minutes there was one see here one longer trip oops and say here okay there was one longer trip in Monterey Bay we're on pursuit one we saw ten to twelve foraging humpbacks in the bay and we stayed on the first receipt we stayed longer than 30 minutes we found four other types of cetaceans on other pursuits and we came back to this group outside of the dock and stayed for 90 minutes on the sixth pursuit watching this with about four or five other boats just circling these guys um so the next thing I wanted to look at is the willingness for operators to join endorsement programs and an endorsement program is a voluntary education and nishant program offered to commercial while watching and it's a way that collaboration can be developed between regulators industry and scientist it's a way to recognize commitment to responsible and sustainable while watching practices in specific regions and so out of the 50 surveys that are received back from the operators 30 of them said yes to some form of endorsement 11 said they already belong to an established organization and 15 wanted more information only three of these 50 surveys said no that they were not interested so then comes to the question if you're a whale watcher how do you get the most for your money and so I recorded the three types of services provided watching boat safety education and entertainment and education could be in the type of any any type of well paraphernalia sub bones books posters baleen and even the presence of a certified naturalist and what I found is that when writer offers safety they typically offer some sort of education five of the 27 operators did not provide safety and six do not provide education and um two of the boats didn't even talk to us at all and not all the businesses have a certified naturalist working with them and so of the 21 votes that offered education only sixty-eight percent of those boats had an onboard naturalist and from an economic perspective the tourist wants the most for their money and from a conservation viewpoint there are 13 million people who will watch around the world on an annual basis and each one of those 13 million tourists would benefit from knowing more about the ocean and about the animals that are going to see so there's large economic differences between the communities along the Pacific coast and so here in California we have a large tourist base and we have beautiful weather and high biodiversity of whales so while watching operators can provide annual tours whereas in depoe bay and Newport Oregon the economic reality is much different and though then the California coast and without whales and Depoe Bay especially there's really not much of an economy and they brag about how small they really are there there are two well watching hot spots on vancouver island in canada victoria is known for well watching focused on orca whales but there are few humpbacks that are migrating into these waters nowadays after the populations were completely depleted due to commercial whaling so tofino is one of these small little villages located on the west coast of Vancouver Island and here in vancou are here in tofino they focus on whale watching bear watching and surfing and fishing and the gray whales migrate up into these coves along vancouver island and they forage on anthro pods and this makes it really easy for the well watching operators to find the whales day by day and in Mexico whales are only around from january to april and regulations only allow while watching to happen within the lagoons from februari to april and there's no other significant businesses along the shoreline or lagoon except for the artisanal fishermen so just as i found differences in the communities i found great differences in the well watching operators themselves boats of all sizes provide experience so we have the Bill of Rights tall ship that Joanna talked to us about we have small fast graphs we have large cruise ships we have commercial fishermen offering while watching during their offseason businesses range from commercial to nonprofits which also varies by region this tells us that creating standards that will meet the current practices and needs as such disparate operators will be difficult so to summarize my results I propose the following four ideas to

improve responsible and sustainable while watching practices on the Pacific Coast first creating a naturalist program that would ensure knowledge is delivered to tourists is is accurate and up-to-date second we know we're watching companies are demonstrating that they're willing to cooperate with a set of guidelines as long as it does not impact their business which was noted by multiple operators I interviewed and the majority of those people just don't have the time to create guidelines so someone needs to do it for them and with them and we all really care about the whales um for one reason or another and the whale watching operators definitely know that the health of their businesses depend entirely on the health of the well populations so my proposal is for the marine biologists to develop conservation based guidelines with operator experience and knowledge and then these new guidelines can be adopted into um established regional endorsement programs in a situation where guidelines can be easily pushed aside in our government we as literal network of well watching operators could be a powerful force so through their eyes can obviously refer to the wells themselves but it also can refer to the perceptions the well watching operators have and it can refer to what we the marine scientist see is being needed and I want to recognize and thank each one of my advisory committee J Barlow John hildebrandt Ryan LIF and Jeff penticoff and I just they've supported me each step of the way and and at multiple conferences they've supported this project and introduced me to a wide range of individuals within this industry and I want to thank the outside collaboration who discussed their different views of well watching to help me build a comprehensive view of this industry and I want to thank my project funders which is the Wellman foundation American cetacean Society san diego chapter and all who contributed on the indiegogo campaign thank you to the CNBC program and scripps institution of oceanography and all the professors and administrators who got us this one really intense year are there any questions for questions microphone I think Elizabeth and I both would like to know why you think you got such a strong survey response and if you could share that with us I got a strong survey response um I used Facebook and I used Twitter for social media platforms um I reached out via handwritten letters by mail to ask them to tell them that I was going to ask for their support and then um i created my survey and i had and i used a survey monkey and i had the application on my iPhone and so when I went aboard the vessels after I completed a tour and got my data I asked for their participation in the survey and all of them actually said yes and so I think it was um just the kind of just the process of getting them to know the project through those different channels thank you I thank you very much that was really great and it's um yeah I've been whale watching in San Ignacio Lagoon and I do know that a lot of people as far as the pause do go there to watch whales and I do think it would be make people feel really good if they knew that they were endorsed there are trips you know that the two operators were endorsed somehow especially because it's such an informal seeming organization of topanga operators how how do you envision those operators being able to tell people that they are certified because a lot of time time they just pick you up on the beach or at least maybe it's different in the pause they also do things like looking at whale sharks and I was one I was thinking about applying this also to whale sharks but do the ponga operators have a means of saying hey we're certified were endorsed in an easy way well I think the ponga operators that are within the biosphere reserve actually and to be a part of the biosphere reserve that delegated name um one of the things they have to do is be self endorsed where magdalena bay there's also the gray whales in that Lagoon and i don't know for sure if those operators are endorsed and the whale since program that's was implemented on the east coast of the US it's a voluntary program for us while watching operators and so they actually have to meet some standards before they get endorsed and it's it's kind of like a yelp saying hey we're endorsed and we do these following things um but this the endorsement programs that are in San Ignacio and and of a daily Bray they are mandatory set by the federal government that they have to work together so basically the federal government has a set of rules and then the operators come together to actually say how they're going to implement the rules like in San Ignacio they have to have a certain number of pongas there's only a certain number of pongas allowed and then they decide that it was 16 and san ignacio so if there was 16 in the lagoon no more could go in and tell somebody else left okay that's it thanks to Alicia you School of the Arts.