Land Based Whale Watching
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Land based whale watching deserves special recognition as a non-intrusive celebration of whales.
Whale watching for recreational, scientific and even spiritual reasons exploded into the public consciousness in the past decade.
So much so, that member states of the International Whaling Commission agreed on some basic principles or behavioral guidelines in 1996. Those guidelines continue to be updated as information on the effects of whale watching on whales improves.
Currently, no one set of rules governs marine based whale watching on a global basis. However, conceptualizing marine based global whale watching guidelines as a very quiet football game provides a good starting point. The general guidelines created to date acknowledge that while whale fans love their whales, any marine based approach of them should be limited to an approximate one hundred yard distance. The guidelines also remind us that, unlike football players, whales are very sound sensitive and do not appreciate any cheering or other loud noises in their presence. Sharing your hot dogs and beer with the whales is also a bad idea. As a matter of fact, sharing any food with whales in the wild is a bad idea.
Land based whale watching, on the other hand, avoids many of the potential problems associated with marine based whale watching. Participants stand on the land and either watch whales enjoying their summer/winter habitat or watch whales migrating to their summer/winter habitat. In short, land based whale watching provides the highest probability that whale fans will not love their whales to death.
Land based whale watching does suffer some drawbacks, especially with respect to whale preferences. Only a select group of whales prefer a coastal habitat near land based viewing points. Fortunately, many whales such as the Eastern Pacific Gray Whale, Humpback Whales and Orcas, among others, favor West Coast habitats that are readily viewable from land.
Finding land based whale viewing spots is easy. For example, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has a program called Whale Watching Spoken Here. Twenty-eight different sites along the Oregon Coast are staffed by volunteers, providing information to visitors during the annual spring and fall migrations. They also collect basic statistics on the number of visitors and number of whales sited. The 108 visitors to the Umpqua Lighthouse on March 28, 2007, for example, had the good fortune of watching 76 different whales pass by on their way to their northern feeding grounds.
California and Washington also provide many very good land based whale watching stations. Those interested in celebrating whales should give any and all of them a try.
© 2007 Patricia A. Michaels