The Whale-Watching Web: Whale Watching in Patagonia Argentina

Conference: Encounters with Whales / Hervey Bay, Thursday 27 July, 1995


Peninsula Valdes is best known for being the only place in Argentina where whale watching is possible, with aboard departures from Puerto Piramide,- small ninety- residents-community, located one hundred kilometres from Puerto Madryn.

Every year these cetaceans come to the area to mate and breed their calves. They remain here during approximately eight months -from May to December. Specie, eubalaena australis, commonly known as southern-right-whale. Number of individuals arriving annually, counted in 1994: 330 animals, which includes approximately 40 calves, born in the season. Up to 1968 the identified animals reached the figure: 1190, and bearing in mind the 7,6 per cent of annual growth, we are to say that the population would be reaching 2000 animals, From the former classification it was stated that 300 whales were reproductive females.

1. Development of the Industry

It is get to know, around the 1960s, about the wild fauna and its habitat's touristic potentiality, thus letting place to the present conservation system.

In the 70s some isolated trips to watch whales wore carried out, but this activity, really started developing in the 80s, when the scuba divers who captured bivalves or octopuses, or anyone working as fishing-trip-guide, adopted the marine mammals approaching, as a way to increase their daily warnings.

In so doing, the activity developed with no-natives, all of us professionals scuba divers lacking marine tradition.

It is in 1982, when government, science representatives, and the whale watchers guides considered it necessary to set up some rules for the whale watching, the protection and conservation of the specie and its habitat, foreseeing the growing tourism. These ones for the activity to be held in Golfo Nuevo, while Golfo San Jose - north-, would remain as Provincial Marine Park, where no commercial activity would be allowed.

This was the first step to the present laws :

  • 2381 and 2618

    Not knowing the impact that might cause the growing touristic flow and not having a true knowledge about the specie's behaviour, the rules set down were too cautious.

    A commitment from the authorities to review or change this ruling within the following four years, existed; in the meantime a survey on the development of this activity would be done to reform or not these rulings. This was never done.

    This gives the impression that whale watchers are committing transgressions every day, but in effect, based on the professional work and experience, they have designed a technique to operate these whale watching activities.

    Nowadays there are six permits for WW. Each of these companies may use two vessels for: up to 39 pax each, or, one vessel for 40 to 70 pax.

    There is a two way commitment - government/companies - which states that, as soon as the State has constructed and completed the pier, companies should work only vessels holding 40 to 70 passengers.

    At the moment, the six companies giving WW services are
    A 1 20
    1 20
    B 1 20
    1 39
    C 1 20
    1 39
    D 1 52
    E 1 20 or 70
    F 1 70 or 20

    On June 25th, this year, an official announcement was given, stating that during the present year there will be a public bid for the construction of this pier.

    Weather changes are an always present problem as the changes in wind are frequent within the same day, added to this, there is an ample change in tide ( six metres ), leaving a three hundred metres beach in low tide, This generated a development of alternatives to be able to operate.

    With high tide, vessels will lash on the [edge of rocks that act as a small natural pier. With low tide, we use fitzcarraldos, mobile piers are used, which are pulled by tractors, transporting the passengers to the floating vessel.

    The geographical characteristics and the lack of port structures, make it necessary to take the vessel out of the water every day.

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    Rauno Lauhakangas