Sustainable whale-watching tourism and climate change: towards a framework of resilience

Emily Lambert*, Colin Hunter, Graham J. Pierce, Colin D. MacLeod

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Whale-watching tourism, currently worth $1 billion p.a. worldwide, depends upon the continued presence of whale, dolphin and porpoise species (collectively called cetaceans) within a specific area. Current evidence suggests that the distribution and/or abundance of cetaceans is likely to alter in response to continued changes in sea surface temperature with global climate change (GCC). This paper reviews how such changes may affect the sustainability of whale-watching operators from a resilience perspective. Potential implications include changes to the presence and frequency of cetacean species targeted and changes to lengths of tourism seasons to coincide with shifts in migration patterns. The review presents an interdisciplinary framework for evaluating the resilience of whale watching to changes in species occurrence, whereby resilience is the degree of change in cetacean occurrence experienced before tourist numbers fall below a critical threshold. The framework combines likelihood of observing a cetacean, trip type and tourist type, which when quantified could identify which operators are likely to experience a change in tourist numbers given a specific scenario of changing cetacean occurrence. In doing so, a step is taken towards providing a means by which resilience to GCC effects on cetacean species could potentially be provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-427
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2010


  • whale watching
  • climate change
  • sustainable tourism
  • resilience
  • cetacean occurrence
  • social-ecological systems
  • marine mammals
  • cetacean distribution
  • habitat preferences
  • North-sea
  • impacts
  • conservation
  • Scotland
  • Atlantic
  • models


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