PREVIOUS TOURISM IMPACT STUDIES
Of the studies focusing on the impacts of tourism on specific animals, even fewer have focused on marine animals. Much of the recent work investigating the impacts of tourism on marine species has focused on cetaceans and sea birds. Many studies of seal behaviour have commented on the responses of seals to humans but very few studies (approximately 13) have specifically set out to investigate the impact of eco-tourism operations on pinnipeds. Kovacs and Innes (1990) investigated the impact of land-based tourism on harp seals (Phoca greolandica) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, during two whelping seasons.
Lidgard (1996) again used behavioural observations of mother/pup pairs as well as collecting weight data on the pups in order to investigate the impact of land-based tourism on grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) over two breeding seasons at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire, UK. Animals present during the peak of tourist season also showed increased vigilance. Two of the studies carried out on otariid species, were based on small, non-breeding, mainland popUlations of Hooker sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri), which do not regularly include females and pups. Prior to this work there have been two studies on the impact oftourism on New Zealand fur seals.
The first study focused on land based tourism in Kaikoura, New Zealand, as well as incorporating a sociological aspect into the study. This study used behavioural observations, and controlled approaches on land, as well as conducting interviews with tourists. The results suggest that seals are habituating to tourists at Kaikoura, however, it also suggests that current regulations are not adequate to minimise the affect of tourist encounters on fur seals. The second study investigated the impact of boats on New Zealand fur seals at Montague Island, New South Wales, Australia.
There are a number of concerns about how tourism may be affecting the target species. Results from a number of studies point to three main areas:
1. Variability of Response: responses vary a great deal between species as well as between individuals, and an understanding of the variability in responses is required for more effective management.
2. Habituation: many studies have observed habituation occurring wherein a “resident” group of animals becomes more tolerant of human activity than is normal.
3. Long-Term Effects: in many instances long-term studies are required to fully document the role of eco-tourism impacts on natural populations. Many eco-tourism impact studies have looked at the short-term impacts over a couple of tourist seasons. If there is any impact on the species productivity, migratory or haul-out patterns, or foraging behaviours, there needs to be long-term monitoring. This was recommended by a number of studies, even when no major short-term changes were detected.