Impacts of Swim-With-Dolphin Tourism to a Resident Population of Dolphins

  • Diana Rocha

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Swim-with-dolphin (SWD) activities can negatively impact the target species by inducing short and long-term ecological changes with individual and population level effects. However, these activities have also proven to generate income and employment to local communities, serve as a valuable research platform of opportunity, and those that include interpretation are also expected to increase tourist awareness and manage the impact of their behaviours on site. Therefore, it is necessary to balance the positive and negative outcomes in order to run this industry in a sustainable manner.
This thesis examines the sustainability of the SWD industry in the Maputo National Park (MNP), Mozambique. Specifically, this incorporates the human social aspects and the short and long-term biological affects to the dolphins, with the purpose of supporting management recommendations.
Methods included hand-out questionnaire surveys to tourists and operators examining their respective perceptions of tourism and conservation; development and assessment of a guide-training workshop with SWD operators; and analysis of a 12-year sightings dataset to evaluate dolphin behavioural changes, activity budgets, and reproductive parameters in two different tourism contexts.
Including interpretation in SWD activities can have a profound effect on tourists’ awareness, attitudes, and behaviour towards dolphin conservation. Likewise, guide- training of SWD staff provided an increase in knowledge and improvement in attitudes towards dolphin conservation and regulations. This is important because SWD activities in the MNP were found to have negatively affected the dolphin population, with altered daily behavioural budgets and increased energetic expenditure. These changes are already translating to long-term population effects, with a decrease in crude birth rate and births per season.
These findings suggest that it is time to implement stronger management measures before irrevocable population consequences occur. The first set of science-informed recommendations was provided to management of the MNP, these recommendations can be adopted and adapted by other parks and tourism operators nationwide, as well as internationally.
Date of Award1 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorJonathan Potts (Supervisor), Ben Drakeford (Supervisor) & Sarah Marley (Supervisor)

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