These rules are established and self-imposed by the nonprofit organization “Shiretoko Ra-ushi” and Shiretoko Aruran Corp., a company that operates a whale watching ship, with an aim to protect the environment and habitat in which whales — which are precious natural resources not only in the Shiretoko region but across the globe — can behave naturally. The rules are applied when operating whale watching tours in the Nemuro Strait off the Shiretoko Peninsula.
The nonprofit organization “Shiretoko Ra-ushi” and Shiretoko Aruran Corp., a company that operates a whale watching ship, establish these rules to preserve the habitat of whales, in cooperation with the town of Rausu, the Rausu Coast Guard Office and the Ministry of the Environment East Hokkaido District Nature Conservation Office.
2. Name of self-imposed rules and waters where they are applied
The established self-imposed rules are applied to all waters in the Nemuro Strait where whale watching tours are operated, and are referred to as the “Shiretoko and Rausu Whale Watching Self-Imposed Rules.”
3. Compliance of routes and safety first
- Safety comes first when operating whale watching cruises, and therefore should not deviate from routes or violate territorial waters. If whales are found within the territorial waters claimed by Russia, they will be observed from the neutral line.
- When staff members of the nonprofit organization “Shiretoko Ra-ushi” board the ship, they should cooperate with and follow the instructions given by the captain, paying attention to the safety of passengers and observing appropriate procedures to prevent accidents.
- The safety of the passengers is the top priority also when performing biological research or covering for the media, and therefore should follow the instructions given by the captain in any circumstances.
4. Whales to which self-imposed rules are to be applied
The whales to which the “Shiretoko and Rausu Whale Watching Self-Imposed Rules” are applied shall be deemed to be the whales belonging to the suborder Mysticeti (baleen whales) and sperm whales.
5. Contents of self-imposed rules
- The rules below are to be followed in all waters where they are applied:
(1) Whale sounds and any sounds that are similar should not be produced underwater.
(2) Any other artificial sounds that may disrupt the behavior of whales should not be produced. This, however, shall exclude ordinary sounds made by moving ships.
(3) Any acts that involve chasing whales should not be performed. Also, attention must be paid not to rush toward the whales and get in their way.
- The waters within 300 meters from whales shall be deemed to be the slow down zone, and the rules below are to be followed:
(1) Whale watching ships should slow down when approaching whales.
(2) The ships should refrain from performing any maneuvers that disrupt the movement of whales.
(3) The ships should refrain from performing any other maneuvers that disturb the behavior of whales.
- The waters within 100 meters from baleen whales and 50 meters from sperm whales shall be deemed to be the no-entry zone, and the rules below are to be followed:
(1) Whale watching ships should not enter this zone.
(2) If the whales come toward the ship, it should leave the area at a low speed or stop its engine, and continue taking this action until it leaves the no-entry zone.
6. Upon performing research or covering for media
If it is expected that a party performing research or covering for media is to go near the wild animals targeted by the “Shiretoko and Rausu Whale Watching Self-Imposed Rules,” it should submit a research plan or proposal to the chairman of the nonprofit organization “Shiretoko Ra-ushi” and obtain his permission beforehand.
Photo shooting and other research activities performed underwater, except in the cases where they are guided by experienced local divers, are not permitted.
All the other matters that are thought to be necessary are to be considered when the need arises by the nonprofit organization “Shiretoko Ra-ushi” and Shiretoko Aruran Corp., upon discussing with the town of Rausu, the Rausu Coast Guard Office, bureaus related to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the Ministry of the Environment East Hokkaido District Nature Conservation Office.
Date of establishment: October 25, 2005