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Responsible Iceland Whale Watching

Arctic Adventures is a proud member of the Icelandic Whale Watching Association (a.k.a. IceWhale), the leading nonprofit of Icelandic whale watching operators. 

Iceland’s waters contain some of the most incredible marine life in the world. Visitors have chances to glimpse blue whales, humpbacks, and orcas in their natural habitats. Arctic Adventures is committed to showing visitors these majestic giants of the deep in a sustainable way. Our aim is to interfere with them as little as possible. 

As honored members of the IceWhale Code of Conduct, we are passionately committed to maintaining the highest possible standards on every single one of our tours. We want to create a world that understands and appreciates whales. 

Sustainable Whale-Watching 

Arctic Adventures is committed to sustainable whale-watching. We aim to give visitors the best possible Iceland whale watching experience while minimizing any potential negative effects on the animals. 

We are proud members of IceWhale, a group that provides a sustainable whale-watching Code of Conduct for tour operators in Iceland. We also maintain our own rigorous standards. Our hope is that future generations will enjoy the incredible marine life that visits Iceland’s waters. 

The Potential Benefits of Whale-Watching 

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) estimated that the global whale-watching industry was worth more than two billion dollars in 2009. It provides more than 13,000 jobs and promotes a sense of stewardship in these communities. 

Whale watching from a boatr in Dalvik in Iceland

Whale-watching also promotes the protection of these beautiful creatures, their habitats, and the environment. Whale-watching has the potential to drastically increase our knowledge of marine mammals. This means scientists are more able to commit to long-term research projects into various whale species.

The Potential Impacts of Whale-Watching 

The IWC believes that thoughtless whale-watching may impact whales and porpoises’ behavior. Studies have shown that short-term effects can include deeper dives and dramatic maneuvers to avoid boats that come too close. Such behavior has also been known to occur when a significant number of whale-watching boats follow one whale pod. 

The long-term impacts are much more difficult to measure because whales live such a long time. Whale-watching is also a relatively new phenomenon. Some research suggests that whales and dolphins’ desire to avoid boats that come too close may limit their feeding. 

While other research has suggested that boats that get to close trigger a stress-reaction leading to negative hormonal changes. The motors of boats that get too close have also been known to damage certain species’ hearing. These long-term impacts are more pronounced with mothers and calves who are less mobile and less able to flee.

The General Consensus 

The IWC and other whale charities believe that the benefits of responsible whale-watching outweigh the potential negatives. Whale-watching operators have a duty to create an environment that promotes the benefits while also minimizing negative impacts. 

Arctic Adventures fully supports this view and practices sustainable whale-watching on every single one of our tours. 

The History of IceWhale

Iceland is one of the best places in Europe to go whale-watching. It’s also one of the world’s hottest tourist destinations. Lately, there have been concerns about the possible negative effects like overtourism. This problem is compounded by the lack of government regulation around whale-watching activities and the Iceland whaling policy. 

IceWhale was developed to counter this problem, seeking to promote responsible and sustainable whale-watching that promotes animal welfare. To this end, it developed a voluntary Code of Conduct to maximize the welfare of animals being observed. The Code of Conduct was developed by IceWhale with tour operators involved in whale watching. It was based on work done by similar whale watching NGOs around the world.

The Code was signed by various companies in 2015, following an operator’s workshop in Reykjavik. Arctic Adventures was one of the first to sign the new whale-friendly code and become a proud member of IceWhale. The Code of Conduct is a document that is constantly under review. It is revised as we learn more about the impact of human actions on marine mammals. 

The IceWhale Code of Conduct 

The IceWhale Code of Conduct was developed with the following aims:

  • To minimize the impact on cetaceans for the future and the sustainability of whale watching operation in Iceland
  • To ensure the best possible encounter, both for animal welfare and passenger enjoyment
  • To increase development, understanding, and awareness of appropriate practices when watching cetaceans

IceWhale Code of Conduct

Orca Guardians Iceland 

Orca Guardians Iceland is a new organization that is dedicated to the welfare of orcas in Iceland. Orca-watching is especially problematic because boats driving quickly through orca feeding areas may lead to collisions or propeller injuries. 

Orca Guardians Iceland are currently developing a code of conduct that will inform and regulate orca-watching in Iceland. We, Arctic Adventures, plan to sign as soon as the new code is released and made available.

Our Staff

Arctic Adventures employs qualified whale-watching captains and guides who passionately care for the creatures that inhabit Iceland’s waters. They are experts in what they do and always seek to promote the safety of the whales while on a tour. They will also do their best to teach you more about whales. More public awareness and education are essential for these wonderful species to survive and thrive well into the future.

Our Pledge

Arctic Adventures is passionately committed to the welfare of every animal that we interact with. This is especially relevant to whale, dolphins, and porpoises due to their complex behaviors and highly developed social structures. To this end, we pledge to maintain the following minimum standards during our whale-watching tours:

  1. To follow the IceWhale Code of Conduct and investigate any breaches of the code that occur on our tours
  2. To constantly review our own company policies. To ensure that we keep up to date with the best industry practices relating to whale-watching
  3. To employ expert captains and guides who are able to maintain these high standards
  4. To ensure that our tours stress the positive aspects of whale-watching such as the educational benefits it can bring

If you feel that we have fallen below these minimum standards, then we urge you to contact us at once. We will review the event and act appropriately. Any further questions or concerns you may have can be directed to IceWhale