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Whale Sense – Responsible Whale Watching

Whale watching can be a life-changing experience as you enter the whales' natural habitat. Commercial whale watching tours that follow Whale SENSE practices will have little to no impact on the animals they are viewing, meaning everything you see is what the whale wants to be doing. After all, altering a marine mammal’s natural behavior is illegal in US waters!

whale sense

There are over 30 participating companies in the Atlantic and Alaska regions. The most important thing to do when selecting a whale watching tour is to look before you book and make sure your company is a Whale SENSE accredited company. Active participants will have a Whale SENSE logo posted with the current year on their website and/or boats.

You can find the full list of participants here.


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Why should I choose a Whale SENSE company?

In some regions and for some species, there are regulations on how close you can get. In most other cases though, there are voluntary guidelines to follow when whale watching. The Whale SENSE program ensures commercial whale watch companies are following these guidelines and keeping the welfare of these majestic animals as a top priority, all while making sure their passengers have a fun and informative experience.

The SENSE in Whale SENSE is an acronym that helps remind companies of the program’s requirements:

  • Stick to the regional whale watching guidelines.

  • Educate naturalists, captains, and passengers to have SENSE while watching whales.

  • Notify appropriate networks of whales in distress.

  • Set an example for other boaters.

  • Encourage ocean stewardship.

whale sense

Responsible whale watching is important because whales are important to our planet. Whales play a vital role in the marine ecosystem where they help provide at least half of the oxygen you breathe, combat climate change, and sustain fish stocks. How do they do it?  By providing nutrients to phytoplankton.

Interested in having your company join Whale SENSE? Companies that offer dedicated whale watching tours are encouraged to apply to be a Whale SENSE Participant. Learn more about the details for your region (Atlantic or Alaska).

Businesses and organizations interested in educating visitors and the public about Whale SENSE and responsible wildlife viewing practices are encouraged to become a Whale SENSE Proud Supporter.

This program is sponsored and implemented by

NOAA Fisheries logo-2019


Are you a recreational boater? Check out See A Spout.

Are you a recreational or professional sailor? Check out Sharing the Seas.

Sheehan Family Businesses logo

We would like to thank the Sheehan Family Companies for their support of WDC's boater outreach programs.