With over 30 registered Whale watching boats operating in Mirissa area at present, one can see the enthusiasm of foreign tourists to venture into sea to have a closer look at these giant marine mammals. Almost on a daily basis, boat operators continue to embark foreigners to offer them with the unique experience of sighting a Blue Whale.
Looking at the statistics maintained by the Sri Lanka Coast Guard since September in year 2013, it is very clear that the tourist arrivals are increasing every month. As per the records held by the Coast Guard personnel, a total of 18,051 (local 1267, foreigners 16784) local and foreigners have enjoyed Whale watching in Mirissa sea area from September to December. In the month of December 2013 alone, a total of 10,720 (1773 from UK) have engaged in Whale watching. As per the records held by the Coast Guard personnel, tourists from 67 countries have visited Mirissa for Whale watching during the month of December alone.
With the involvement of Sri Lanka Coast Guard in monitoring Whale watching activities in September 2013, primary consideration has been given to the safety aspects of personnel taking passage onboard. In addition, the Coast Guard has deployed two dedicated vessels to monitor activities out at sea as well as to assist boat operators during an emergency. In addition to above, Coast Guard has conducted number of programmes to educate the boat operators on safety aspects and assisted in formulating a self-regulated code of conduct in order to make the Whale watching industry a sustainable one.
The role played by the Coast Guard personnel have being praised by many local and foreign tourists who visit Mirissa fishery harbour for Whale watching. Couple of years ago, some have raised questions over the conduct of local boat operators who are engaged in Whale watching and went onto label it as ‘Whale chasing’.
Today, the situation has changed to a greater extent. With the presence of Coast Guard personnel to ensure that both the operators as well as the tourists are adhering to the regulations that are in place. The best testimony for the conduct of operators and the monitoring role played by the Coast Guard comes from a recent foreigner who had an unforgettable time watching the giant Blue Whales off Mirissa.
According to comments posted by Ms. Alyson on the ‘worldtravelfamily.com’, of her experience in the month of November in year 2013, she says that the Whale watching experience was very much ‘Whale friendly’ as the boat operators were adhering to rules and regulations such as maintaining the distance from the Whale, which is very important in enjoying the Whale without disturbing its natural environment.
She explains a situation where the Coast Guard boat acted promptly in responding to a boat with an outboard motor which almost ran over a Whale. The Coast Guard personnel later warned the operator and ensured that distance is maintained and rules are adhered (http://worldtravelfamily.com/blue-whale-whale-watching-mirissasri-lanka/).
This gives a very good message to the boat operators and the tourists around the world of the Whale watching standard in Mirissa. The role played by the Sri Lanka Coast Guard in ensuring both operators and the tourists are following the stipulated rules/regulations and importantly the on scene monitoring by Coast Guard craft can be seen as key factors in making Mirissa the best Whale watching destination in the world.