All photos courtesy of Robyn Ehrlich

Whale SENSE was recently featured in a Washington Post article focusing on how to find operators that responsibly view and interact with wildlife while traveling! We reached out to Robyn Ehrlich, the education manager for the Pacific Whale Foundation in Maui, who was featured in the article. She said that she sought out a Whale SENSE company,  “because I know that wildlife watching management and guidelines vary in different parts of the US – and the world – it is important to me that I look for a company that demonstrates their awareness of local regulations/guidelines and best practices.”  

Robyn elaborated that “I had a wonderful experience with Seward Ocean Excursions! I took a tour that had a maximum capacity of 6 passengers; this included myself, the friend I traveled with, and a family of 4 visiting from the US mainland.  Our captain educated us about each type of wildlife we encountered and allowed plenty of time for viewing of each species.  She always maneuvered responsibly around wildlife, allowing appropriate distance, and often keeping the boat still for extended viewing opportunities.  Very early on in our trip – perhaps while we were still in the harbor – we encountered a plastic bottle floating in the water.  The captain took the time to stop and pick this up, which I really appreciated as a model of ocean stewardship!”

It is thanks to our dedicated operators that travelers looking to find sustainable whale watching experiences in the Atlantic and Alaska need only to look for the Whale SENSE logo. Once they find it, they’ll know their company not only adheres to all laws protecting marine species, but goes above and beyond to follow guidelines and participate in ocean stewardship. Travelers can easily find whether companies are participants in the program by looking for the logo on the company’s webpage, or on our SENSE-ible Whale Watches page

Robyn holding a piece of an iceberg.

The article also provides suggestions for how to select operators that responsibly view other species of wildlife. A good rule of thumb is to review the company’s website in advance to make sure they talk about guidelines or regulations they follow to responsibly view the animals, and if they participate in an established recognition program, like Whale SENSE. Robyn stated that she usually offers similar advice when asked this type of question. And in this case, she told us “ I was taking my own advice and came across operators in Alaska that participate in the Whale SENSE program.”

As with any opportunity to view wildlife, whale or otherwise, it is important to remember that we are visitors in their world and to create as little disturbance as possible. This will allow viewers to not only have the best experience, but the opportunity to see wildlife behaving as naturally as possible!

Alicia Schuler
Alicia Schuler

Ali has been working with the Whale SENSE Program since 2018. She has worked as a whale watch naturalist in both Alaska and Hawaii, and spent her master’s researching the effects of whale watching on humpback whales and conservation.