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Motivating Blue Habits Through Whale Watching

Can a great whale watching experience inspire you to develop new ocean-friendly habits? We think so. We're working with Stanford University to transform whale watching into an even greater force for good.

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Nature-based tourism (or ecotourism) is a powerful and yet vastly underused platform for motivating behavior change. Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, and ecotourism is considered to be its fastest growing segment. Experiences in ecotourism are believed to create short-term spikes in behavior related to conservation and the environment, but the challenge comes in converting the spikes into long-term behavioral changes.

Our partners at Stanford University recently completed a pilot study that sought to convert eco-tourists' post-trip spikes in motivation into specific environmental behavior changes. Together we are building on their studies and others to explore how Oceanic Society's California whale watching programs can effectively convert spikes in interest and caring about the ocean into tangible longer-term behavioral outcomes.


Declining ocean health is a worldwide problem whose causes—including overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change—are diverse and difficult to quantify. Yet they all share a common cause: human behaviors. Simply put, people put too much in and take too much out of the seas. Fortunately, we have the power—individually and collectively—to improve ocean health by making simple changes to our daily habits. By taking action to reduce our personal plastic consumption, to make better seafood choices, to participate in beach cleanups, to reduce our carbon footprint, or to support ocean-friendly legislation, we all have the ability to improve ocean health.

How We Are Helping

We're going beyond traditional, faulty assumptions—that simply providing knowledge about an environmental issue is enough to lead to environmental action—and transforming our programs to strategically target pro-environmental behavior among participants.

In the first stage of this program, now underway, we're evaluating our California whale watching programs, which serve more than 1,700 tourists per year, for opportunities to target specific pro-ocean behavioral outcomes. We're designing and fine-tuning the educational and interpretive activities provided by our onboard naturalists and the pre- and post-trip communications with travelers in order to motivate specific pro-ocean behaviors.

Once we've tested and honed our program, we'll share the results and methods with other whale watching operators throughout the United States, which serve more than 5 million people every year.

Results from this first phase of the Blue Habits program will serve as the basis for refining a process and methodology to be applied in Oceanic Society's international travel and volunteer programs, which visit important marine habitats worldwide. We are currently developing plans for the continuation and expansion of the Blue Habits program beyond Phase 1. Please contact us to learn more.


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