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Cashing in on Cetourism: A Critical Ecological Engagement with Dominant E-NGO Discourses on Whaling, Cetacean Conservation, and Whale Watching

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This paper engages critically with the monolithic presentation of whale watching as the antithesis of whale hunting. It begins by tackling the reductive and homogenized portrayal of whale watching in mainstream environmental discourse as diametrically opposite to whale hunting and argues that such discourse likely obscures the existence of bad whale watching conduct. Next it reveals significant continuities between whale hunting and whale watching, especially the fetishized commoditization of cetaceans and the creation of a metabolic rift in human–cetacean relations. In both contexts nature is produced first and foremost according to capitalist principles, which problematizes the pervasive assumption that whale watching correlates primarily and directly with conservation. Finally, the paper examines two different business models and the production of distinct ecological and community development effects. The results of the comparison justify the need for more critical and effective environmental non-governmental organization approaches to cetourism vis-à-vis nature conservation goals.

Keywords: cetaceans; eco-tourism; marine conservation; metabolic rift; whale watching; whaling

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Canada;, Email:

Publication date: 2010-06-01

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