It's official. East London is now a legally designated boat-based whale and dolphin watching destination.
John Barry of Southern Cross Cruises has been granted a permit by the Department of Environmental Affairs to operate whale and dolphin watching cruises from the East London harbour. The permit is valid for 10 years.
Whale watching is recognised as having substantial social, economic and educational benefits and this activity is growing worldwide, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement.
Only a limited number of permits are issued to achieve the overarching goal of conservation and sustainable use. In the Eastern Cape, only East London, Port Elizabeth, Kei-Umgazi Rivers, Cape St Francis, Kenton-on-Sea, Port Alfred and Umgazi-Umtanvuna are sanctioned boat-based whale watching destinations.
Being designated an official boat-based whale watching destination is set to have a significant economic impact for East London. A recent study by the South African Boat-based Whale Watching Association (SABBWWA) has found that, despite a reduced number of permits, total passenger numbers grew from 26 045 in 2004 to 42 040 in 2015, with revenue growing from R 19.8 million in the period 2002 to 2008, to R 40.5 million in 2008 to 2016.
Evelyn Pepler, chairperson of SABBWWA, said 22,2% of all visitors surveyed came into the towns in which they took boat-based whale watching tours as day trippers, while 55,6% of them spent between two- and three days in these destinations, 11.1% spent three- to four days there, and a further 11.1% stayed for more than 5 days.
“All but three of the boat-based whale watching operators in South Africa are based in small towns, and, since our main season for whale watching occurs in the winter, both our marketing and our turnover make significant contributions to the local economies at a time of the year when business is generally slow,” said Evelyn.