Rules for respectful whale watching
Since the beginning of our activities in the Strait of Gibraltar firmm has taken up the cause of respectful whale watching. Since 2007 exists, finally, also a royal decree (Decreto Real) for Spain, which regulates the approach to whales and dolphins in Spanish waters for everybody - whale-watchers, fishermen, and private people. The following guidelines apply:
Finding the animals and approaching them
- The approach shall be done in a gentle manner, at an angle of about 30° in the swimming direction of the animals. The boat shall not approach the marine mammals closer than 60 metres and shall retreat immediately if discomfort is detected.
- The boat must never approach directly from the front, from behind or vertically to the swimming direction of the animals. At all times it must be ensured that the freedom of movement of the marine mammals is not restricted. This includes not cutting off the animals' path, driving through a group or separating individual animals from the group.
- The use of sonar and/or acoustic systems to locate the animals is prohibited.
- During observation, the boat shall be kept at constant speed in a parallel direction. The maximum speed during this time shall be four knots, but not faster than the slowest animal in the group.
- If a whale approaches the boat or suddenly appears less than 60 metres from a boat, neutral gear must be engaged. For dolphins, a constant, slow speed can be maintained.
- Touching and feeding of the animals, swimming or diving with whales and dolphins is prohibited.
- Within 300 metres of a whale or a group of whales there may be no more than two boats.
In addition to these guidelines, firmm has the policy of not staying with a group for more than 15 minutes. The whales seem to notice this, at least we experience again and again that groups approach our boat or even seek shelter with us.