Whale watching in the whaling countries
Despite hostility from the pro-whaling sector, whale watching continues to grow in the three commercial whaling countries:
Iceland: Approximately 30,000 people went whale-watching in Iceland in 1998. By 2012 this number had swelled to an estimated 175,000, making it one of Europe's most successful whale watching destinations. Iceland's whale watching, started in 1993, has developed into a sustainable industry worth more than US$20 million annually – far more than any income from current commercial whaling. The vast majority of whale watchers are foreign visitors, mostly from other European countries.
Japan: After a small start in 1988, Japan’s whale watching industry has grown at an annual average rate of 6.4 percent. In 2008, this industry served almost 200,000 customers generating more than US$22 million in income. Whale watching is present on all 4 main islands as well as the distant tropical islands of Okinawa and Ogasawara. Several of the more successful operations are based on sightings of small cetacean species, such as the large operations on Kyushu. By far most whale watchers in Japan are Japanese, not foreign visitors.
Norway: Norwegian whale watching is based entirely in the north of the country, especially in the small town of Andenes to which it has brought significant economic benefit. The peak season for observing sperm whales as well as minkes, orca, pilot and humpback whales are the summer months when migrating whales are in Norwegian waters. However, more recently, whale watching has also been successfully conducted in winter with good sightings of humpback whales. In 2008 there were approximately 35,000 participants in whale watching.