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Is Whale Watching in Iceland Eco-Friendly?

Whale watching in Iceland is one of the most popular activities for visitors to do. In this article, we discuss whether it's eco-friendly, and how to join eco whale watching tours.

If you are looking for a unique and memorable experience in Iceland, you might want to consider booking a whale watching tour. Whale watching is one of the most popular activities in Iceland, and for good reasons. You get to see some of the most majestic creatures on the planet up close, in their natural habitat, and learn more about their behavior and ecology.


But are whale watching tours in Iceland eco-friendly? How do they affect the whales and their environment? And what can you do to make sure you are choosing a responsible whale watching operator? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more, so you can enjoy your whale watching adventure with a clear conscience.


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The Current State of Whale Watching in Iceland

Whale watching in Iceland has been growing steadily since the 1990s, when the first tours started operating from Reykjavik and Husavik. Today, there are over 20 whale watching companies in Iceland, offering tours from various locations around the country, such as Reykjavik, Dalvik, Olafsvik, Grundarfjordur, and more. According to the Icelandic Tourism Board, whale watching attracted over 350,000 visitors in 2019, making it one of the most popular tourist activities in Iceland.


The most common whale species that can be seen on whale watching tours in Iceland are minke whales, humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises. However, depending on the season and location, you might also spot other species, such as blue whales, fin whales, sperm whales, killer whales, pilot whales, and more.


The best time to go whale watching in Iceland is from April to October, when the whales are more active and abundant. However, some tours operate year-round, as there is always a chance to see some whales in Icelandic waters.

The Impact of Whale Watching on the Environment

Whale watching is generally considered to be a low-impact and eco-friendly activity, as it does not involve harming or capturing the whales, unlike whaling or fishing. However, whale watching can still have some negative effects on the whales and their environment if it is not done properly and responsibly. Some of the potential impacts of whale watching are:

  • Disturbing their Natural Environment:

Whale watching boats can disturb the whales' natural behavior, such as feeding, resting, socializing, or mating. This can cause stress or injury to the whales, or make them avoid certain areas or migrate to other places.

  • Noise Pollution:

Whale watching boats can generate noise that can interfere with the whales' communication and echolocation. This can affect their ability to find food, mates, or predators, or cause hearing damage or disorientation.

  • Pollution:

Whale watching boats can pollute the water with fuel, oil, garbage, or sewage. This can harm the whales' health or habitat quality.

  • Collision with Whales:

Whale watching boats can accidentally hit or injure the whales if they get too close or drive too fast. This can cause wounds, infections, or even death to the whales.

The Benefits of Responsible Whale Watching


While whale watching can have some negative impacts on the environment if it is not done properly and responsibly, it can also have some positive impacts if it is done well and ethically. Some of the benefits of responsible whale watching are:

  • Education:

Whale watching can educate people about the whales and their environment, and raise awareness and appreciation for their conservation and protection. This can inspire people to take action or support initiatives that benefit the whales and their habitat.

  • Research:

Whale watching can provide valuable data and information for scientific research on the whales and their ecology. This can help improve our knowledge and understanding of these amazing animals and their needs.

  • Economy:

Whale watching can generate income and employment for local communities and businesses that depend on tourism. This can help improve their living standards and well-being.


The Best Eco-Friendly Whale Watching Tours in Iceland


If you are interested in booking a whale watching tour in Iceland, you should make sure you choose a reputable and responsible operator that follows the best practices and guidelines for whale watching. Luckily, we've rounded up the three best operators to choose from.

Each of the above whale watching tours in Iceland are all excellent choices. Each company practices responsible whale watching tours, follow all guidelines when it comes to approaching any whales, and provides fantastic educational and informative commentary on board.

There's no doubt that whale watching in Iceland is a popular tourist attraction, but it also raises ethical questions about the impact of human activity on these majestic creatures.


Some argue that whale watching is a form of wildlife conservation, as it raises awareness and funds for research and protection. Others claim that whale watching is a form of exploitation, as it disturbs the natural behavior and habitat of the whales.


There is no definitive answer to this debate, but one thing is clear: whale watching in Iceland requires careful regulation and monitoring to ensure that it does not harm the whales or their environment. As responsible travelers, we should always ensure that we choose a tour operator that follows the guidelines of the national authorities and disturbs the whales as little as possible.

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