Sri Lanka to fine errant whale watching boat operators

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Colombo, Jan 25 (IANS) The Sri Lankan government will impose heavy fines and a two-year jail sentence on boat operators who do not follow correct procedures for whale watching, media reports said Friday.

Minister of Tourism and Christian Affairs Ranjith Aluwihare said that an awareness programme would be conducted for boat operators engaged in whale watching for local and foreign tourists and anyone caught violating the rules would face a jail term and a fine of $2,700, reports Xinhua news agency.

Aluwihare said some boat operators were violating the listed procedures, such as overcrowding their boats and going further ahead of designated areas, which have endangered tourists’ lives.

“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.

Blue whale, sperm whale and humpback are among the whale species seen in Sri Lankan waters, which are also rich in dolphins.

–IANS

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