Marine tourism is a new frontier of late-capitalist transformation, generating more global revenue than aquaculture and fisheries combined. This transformation created whale-watching, a commercial tourism form that, despite recent critiques, has been accepted as non-consumptive activity. This paper uses four academic discourses to critique whale-watching as a form of capitalist exploitation: (1) commercial whale-watching and global capitalist transformation, (2) global capitalist politics and the promoted belief that whale-watching is non-consumptive, (3) the inherent contradictions of non-consumptive capitalist exploitation, and (4) whale-watching as a common-pool resource. These discourses lead us to critique whale-watching practices in relation to the common capitalist sequence of resource diversification, exploitation, depletion and collapse. Using specific impact studies, we conclude that a sustainability paradigm shift is required, whereby whale-watching (and other forms of wildlife tourism) is recognized as a form of non-lethal consumptive exploitation, understood in terms of sub-lethal anthropogenic stress and energetic impacts. We argue the need for a paradigm shift in the regulation and management of commercial whale-watching, and present the case for a unified, international framework for managing the negative externalities of whale-watching. The relevance of the issues raised about neoliberal policy-making extends beyond whale-watching to all forms of wildlife and nature-based tourism.
- marine tourism
- wildlife tourism
- sub-lethal anthropogenic stress