Stakeholders, industry knowledge and adaptive management in the Australian whale-watching industry

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Dimmock, K, Hawkins, E & Tiyce, M in 2014, 'Stakeholders, industry knowledge and adaptive management in the Australian whale-watching industry', Journal of Sustainable Tourism, vol. 22, no. 7, pp. 1108-1121.

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Whale watching has become an economically valuable tourism sector. The whale-watching industry is complex, involves multiple stakeholders and can involve multilevel governance. This paper uses the concept of adaptive management to underpin an investigation of industry knowledge and information exchange between two key stakeholder groups in whale watching in Australia – whale-watching operators and environmental resource managers. Twenty commercial operators and nine environmental resource managers were interviewed using both quantitative and open-ended questions. Findings showed key differences between stakeholders involved, and inconsistent perspectives across the industry. Resource managers found biological issues, species health and numbers and interpretation important; operators sought clear and consistent knowledge on compliance, legislation and rules. Only half of the operators had direct access to research and researchers. Managers found the industry to be relatively unprofessionally qualified, especially small and non-specialised operators. Whale-watching operators did not specify that any information (about new knowledge, regulations or policy) was obtained from environmental resource managers through information exchanges. There was inconsistent contact between stakeholders, limiting information exchange and the knowledge-building potential of the industry. Improved dialogue between these groups may not only address existing uncertainties, but also lead to more sustainable outcomes across the industry.

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