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About the DSP

What is the Dolphin Space Programme?

The Dolphin Space Programme (DSP) is an accreditation scheme for wildlife tour boat operators. It is an innovative, co-operative approach to sustainable wildlife tourism, launched on World Oceans Day, 8 June 1995. The aim of the DSP is to encourage people who go out to observe dolphins and other marine wildlife to "watch how they watch" and to respect the animal's need for space.

If you want to find out how to watch the Moray Firth's wildlife responsibly please download our 'Watching Wisely' poster, by clicking here.

Breaching bottlenose dolphins. Photograph by Charlie Phillips (http://www.charliephillipsimages.co.uk)

Why do we need guidelines for Dolphin Watching in the Moray Firth?

Wildlife watching provides valuable income for local communities, as well as providing an ideal opportunity to raise awareness and inform people about the marine environment. However, without appropriate management, cetacean watching from boats can cause disturbance to the very animals people enjoy seeing.

Research carried out in other parts of the world, where boat-based cetacean watching has been carried out for many years, indicates that cetaceans can show a negative response to the noise and behaviour of tour boats. The potential effects of disturbance on cetaceans from boats can be broadly divided into three categories. These are:

1. Immediate effects arising from boat/cetacean collisions
2. Short-term effects which include interruption or changes in essential behaviours such as respiration, feeding, resting, socialising, communicating, care of young and group spacing. Repeated disturbance of these behaviours can result in chronic stress and increased use of energy.
3. Long-term effects which can result in changes in distribution, reduced fitness and reduced breeding potential.

Responses of cetaceans to vessels may be particularly pronounced when boats approach fast, aggressively or erratically, cut across groups of animals and/or move over feeding and resting areas.

Photograph by Charlie Phillips (http://www.charliephillipsimages.co.uk)

To avoid these potential impacts the Dolphin Space Programme provides a code of conduct, training opportunities and educational materials to encourage responsible vessel interactions with cetaceans.

Boat operators who join the Dolphin Space Programme accreditation scheme agree to follow an approved code of conduct. This includes training in the best ways to approach dolphins and other cetaceans to ensure minimal disturbance to the animals. In return for joining the scheme, tour operators are offered support and promotional opportunities by the members of the DSP steering group.

DSP accredited operators conduct cruises of high quality and low environmental impact. Passengers on DSP accredited boats are offered an enjoyable experience taking in the beauty and diversity of wildlife found in the Moray Firth, safe in the knowledge that their activities do not threaten the wildlife they are enjoying.

The DSP is run by a steering group of several organisations and agencies which are listed on the steering group page.






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