The use of motorboats (fishing boats, ferries, jet-skis, boats used in offshore activities and whale watching) at sea requires fuel, which creates greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change.

At this stage, whale watching is largely still reliant on fossil fuels, something that is not particularly compatible with the idea of ‘sustainability’. First, from an economic perspective, due to the repercussions of increased oil prices. Second, from an ecological perspective, as 80% of whale watching boats are powered by diesel engines, which consume a great deal of energy and produce greenhouse gas emissions.

It is worth noting that these greenhouse gases contribute to rising sea temperatures. Northern krill, for example, which are the sole prey of fin whales, could face significant disruptions as a result of the increase in habitat temperature. Lastly, the particles produced by the combustion of fossil fuels at whale-watching sites could be the cause of respiratory problems for cetaceans. Further scientific studies now need to be carried out in order to implement the adequate management measures.

Management options

Studies across the ACCOBAMS are conducted to assess the impact of climate change on cetaceans and identify indicator species, in collaboration with international bodies such as the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).

Standard for the monitoring of climate change in Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean indicators are also being developed in collaboration with IUCN.

It is also essential to choose alternatives to fossil fuels (renewable energies, new propulsion technologies ) and to test them within the Sanctuary, in collaboration with the inventors and distributors of these systems, as well as approved whale-watching operators. The eco-tourism activities offered should also be reorganized (e.g. limiting trips between the port and whale-watching sites) as a means of limiting energy consumption.