Whale watching in Latin America is increasing significantly despite a slowing in growth worldwide. For example, in 1998 Costa Rica had only three whale watching companies. This expanded by 1400% to more than 50 in 2004.In 2004, Fundacion Cethus' Whale Watching Training Workshop for Central America showed marine ecotourism to be the best option for both local communities and the conservation of cetaceans. This creates incentives for governing bodies to protect these migratory animals in national and international waters.
Global Ocean co-funds these Whale Watching Workshops to promote the benign use of whales.
Fundacion Cethus and WDCS (the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society) believe that whale watching workshops demonstrate the importance of protecting whales and dolphins. Since 1998, they have been developing a joint programme through Latin America and Spain, and since 2006 supported by Global Ocean. Over the past two years, Fundacion Cethus has run highly successful whale watching workshops in Panama (Panama city and Bocas del Toro), Guatemala (Guatemala city) and Nicaragua (Managua
and San Juan del Sur). Fundacion Cethus works with local communities, particularly local fishermen, at their request, since these communities are looking for economical alternatives following the collapse of coastal fish stocks.
Fundacion Cethus helps such communities to develop responsible whale watching
activities and, at the same time, to protect whales and dolphins. Each workshop is
supported by the host government. In March 2007, Fundacion Cethus ran a whale
watching workshop in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, involving 30-40 participants,
including many fishermen. The participants shared experiences and were very
enthusiastic to learn more about cetaceans, and a follow-up workshop is planned
shortly. Similar activities are planned in Venezuela, Panama and Chile.