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Tourists' Perspectives on Dolphin Watching in Bocas Del Toro, Panama

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The small resident population of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Dolphin Bay, Bocas del Toro, is the target of the largest dolphin-watching industry in Panama. Previous work has shown that intense dolphin-watching activity is negatively affecting this dolphin population. Thus, understanding tourist's preferences and views on dolphin watching may help to develop marketing and management strategies that can reduce the impact of this activity on the resident dolphin population. To generate this information, we interviewed a total of 129 tourists who were primarily first-time visitors to Bocas del Toro. Of these, 45% had been on a dolphin-watching trip locally, and a further 11% were planning to take a trip. Overall, tourists participating in these tours expressed low levels of satisfaction with local dolphin-watching practices due to the high density of boats present and their mode of approach to the animals. The majority of tourists stated that they would prefer a dolphinwatching trip on which the operator used good dolphin-watching practices, had licensed staff, and provided ecological information about the dolphins. These results indicate an urgent need to restructure the tourism industry in Bocas del Toro towards trips that are aligned with tourist interests and local conservation efforts. Such changes could significantly reduce the impact that unnecessarily high intensity dolphin watching is having on this small population of bottlenose dolphins. Simultaneously, this would increase tourist satisfaction and contribute to marine mammal conservation.
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Keywords: BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN; DOLPHIN WATCHERS; ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS; ENVIRONMENTAL OPINIONS; PANAMA; REGULATIONS; SUSTAINABILITY; TOURIST; TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS; WHALE WATCHING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 May 2017

This article was made available online on 19 December 2016 as a Fast Track article with title: "TOURISTS’ PERSPECTIVES ON DOLPHIN-WATCHING IN BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA".

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  • Tourism in Marine Environments is an interdisciplinary journal dealing with a variety of management issues in marine settings. It is a scientific journal that draws upon the expertise of academics and practitioners from various disciplines related to the marine environment, including tourism, marine science, geography, social sciences, psychology, environmental studies, economics, marketing, and many more.
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