Whale harassment facing $10,000 fines

PANAMA’S Environment  MINISTRY (MiAmbiente) has introduced fines of up to $10,000 for harassment of whales and dolphins.

The measure announced Wednesday, October 18 seeks to guarantee the safety of those involved and to avoid stress to the species, which represent a potential for ecotourism.

A resolution adopted five days earlier establishes fines ranging from $1,000 for approaching less than 250 meters, up to $5,000 for approaching less than 50 meters and for recidivism double the fine or up to $10,000.

Environmentalists welcomed the move, but eyebrows were raised when it was equated with tourism revenue.

Environment Minister Emilio Sempris said: “this regulation was necessary, as we are experimenting with a major boom in ecotourism in Panama, and we do not want the irresponsible sighting of whales and dolphins off our coasts and seas, impacting the balance of the ecosystem and the income that  is generated for the country  by this ecotourism activity.”