Tourism with wild cetaceans (whales and dolphins) is increasing, as more people understand that they can never be kept correctly in captivity and so choose to admire them in their natural habitat.
Many scientific studies show however that cetacean watching and swimming-with programs can pose a high level of stress to wild populations, particularly when it is not (well) regulated and guidelines are not followed. Careless boat driving triggers an antipredator response which uses up energy that is necessary for survival. It disrupts natural behaviour, causing changes in their behavioural activity, movement, vocalization and group structure, and even increases the risk of boat propeller injuries.
Note that whale watching can only be done in places where animals are found regularly. The animals have a good reason why they are in a particular area. They may utilize a place to rest, nurse their young, find food, protect themselves, or to mate. Disturbance may force them to leave the area, but very often they cannot do so, because they wouldn’t have a suitable alternative place to go to. Irresponsible cetacean tourism is thus a serious threat that can lead to population decline.
Therefore, be aware of your responsibility as a customer and choose your operator wisely! The greatest wildlife experience is to observe the natural behaviour of an animal with least possible disturbance.