PANAMA CITY – New regulations covering whale watching are being implemented to protect the marine mammals in Panama, with violators subject to fines of up to $10,000, the Environment Ministry said.
“These regulations are necessary in light of the important increase in ecotourism in Panama,” Environment Minister Emilio Sempris said in a statement.
The new rules are designed to ensure the safety of tourists and avoid stressing whales, Sempris said.
The regulations seek to prevent “irresponsible viewing that scares off whales and dolphins” living off the coast, “impacting the balance of the ecosystem and the revenues that this ecotourism activity generates in the country,” Sempris said.
The implementing resolution for the regulations was issued on Oct. 13 and imposes fines of $1,000 for coming within 250 meters (820 feet) of whales, with the penalty rising to up to $5,000 for coming within less than 50 meters (164 feet) of the marine mammals.
A second violation of the regulations can lead to a fine of double the maximum penalty, or $10,000, the ministry said.
The regulations set a maximum navigating speed in whale watching zones of 4 knots (7 kph).
Under the new rules, vessels following whales or dolphins must keep their speed at or below that of the slowest swimming marine mammal being observed, the Environment Ministry said.