Colombo, Jan. 25 (newsin.asia) – The Sri Lankan government will impose heavy fines and a two year jail sentence on errant boat operators who do not follow the correct procedures when going for whale watching, local media reports said here Friday.
State Minister of Tourism and Christian Affairs, Ranjith Aluwihare said that an awareness program would be conducted for boat operators engaged in whale watching for local and foreign tourists, and anyone caught violating these methods would face a jail term and a fine of an estimated 2,700 US dollars.
Aluwihare said it had been brought to his notice that some boat operators were violating the listed procedures which included overcrowding their boats and going further ahead of the designated areas, endangering the lives of local and foreign tourists.
“Whale watching has become a growing attraction that has made tourists to visit these areas. The Tourism Ministry is concerned that currently many operators do not adhere to essential safety precautions which puts the visitors at risk,” Aluwihare said.
He further said boats were permitted to cover a distance of 12 nautical miles which was the observation area frequented by whales.
Sri Lanka is a popular destination for whale watching with the best seasons being from November to February or March of each year.
The Sri Lanka Coast Guard said the blue whale was first sighted in Sri Lanka in 1971 after which whale watching became a major tourist attraction.
Additionally sperm whale and humpback were among the whale species seen in Sri Lankan waters.
Sri Lankan seas are also rich in dolphins.