New Publication

Abstract:

Commercial in-water interactions (IWIs) with wildlife may hold potential risks for their participants. Precautionary mechanisms for mitigating such risk factors are crucial for safe human–wildlife encounters. One of those tools is the provision of skilled in-water guides, yet across the industry it is not a standard practice. This article communicates the relevance of in-water guides for the safety and well-being of tour participants, substantiated by semistructured interview data obtained in three case study locations in the South Pacific. Participants interacting with humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri), and bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) reported various benefits from the presence of in-water guides, including anxiety relief, elevated confidence and perception of safety, and obtainment of information on animal behavior. Apart from tourist safety, a deployment of in-water guides would also constitute an effective way of managing inappropriate tourist behavior. Hence, the results of this study strongly suggest the inclusion of in-water guides in commercial operations for tourist safety and management in future licensing schemes.

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