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Whale Watching Regulations: NOM-131-SEMARNAT-2010

There are three basic rules for whale watching:

  1. Cause the minimum impact over the whales.
  2. Be patient.
  3. Only go whale watching with boats or companies that have a whale watching permit.


However, as a conscious ecotourist you should know that:

  • The minimum distance that should be kept from whales is 800 ft for boats without a whale watching permit.  
  • Only a maximum number of 4 (four) boats can remain around the same whale or a group of whales.
  • For authorized boats, the minimum observation distance between any boat and a whale, or group of whales, is 60 meters for small boats (less than 10 meters in length) and 80 meters for medium and larger boats (more than 10 meters length).
  • When whale watching, it is very important to try to keep a constant cruising speed with a maximum of 9 km/hr (5 mph, 5 knots), in all cases cruising speed should be slower than the slowest whale in the group. Fast acceleration and deceleration should be avoided.
  • Avoid drastic changes in speed and direction within 300 mt. (990 ft.) to the closest whale, because this scares them and can cause a colision.
  • If whales avoid you, change direction, breathing rhythm or modify their activity don’t approach them or move away slowly.
  • The correct way to approach a whale is from its side and slightly from the back, never from the front, or encircling them because this could be threatening to them.
  • Mothers with calves are very sensitive, so it is very important to be extremely careful when approaching them.
  • It´s forbidden to cause the dispersion of a group or to interrupt its activities.
  • Don´t throw anything into the water, especially plastic, cigarrettes or synthetic material that can cause problems to the animals if they accidentally swallow them.
  • Neither commercial or sport fishing should be conducted in an area where a group of whales have been identified.
  • Activities such as swimming, snorkeling, sea kayaking, jet skiing, parachuting,or scuba diving shouldn’t be done in the area where whales are found.  It could be dangerous and can also affect and change the natural behavior of the whales.
  • It is forbidden to tow dinguis or any type of object, nor to drag ropes, lines, nets, ropes, hooks or any other similar accessory during whale watching to avoid accidents.
  • For your own safety always wear a lifevest while in a motorboat


If you want you can download and print this format with the mexican whale watching regulations so you can keep it handy on your boat

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Ecotourism is a very important tool in the development of local communities and it promotes sustainable development. In addition, it can be a very useful platform for research and environmental education.

ECOBAC seeks to promote the development of ecological tourism, through consultant services in the following areas: specialized training for guides, regulations, route designs and services and facility certifications.


ECOBAC seeks the benefit of those companies that participate with concrete actions in the conservation of natural resources and promotes the economic and social development of local communities. 

We collaborate extensively with Ecotours de México, a pioneer ecotourism company in Mexico, which offers a different option for those interested in having a unique experience, where in addition to having fun they can learn about the places they visit and support our research and conservation projects.


Since we can´t really care for things we don´t know it´s very important to train whale watching tour operators.

As a first step towards training, in 2002 we organized the 1st. Humpback Whale in Banderas Bay Workshop, were research, regulation and conservation issues were discussed.  Since then, we regularly give training courses and workshops to Whale Watching Tour Operators all over the Mexican Pacific coast.

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Interaction with fishing gear represents one of the most significant threats to whales worldwide. 

In Mexico, in order to address this crisis, Ecología y Conservación de Ballenas, AC (ECOBAC) created the Whale Disentanglement Network, known as RABEN, with support of CONANP (Mexico’s Park System).  RABEN is an interagency team of people trained to perform rescues of whales entangled in fishing gear. RABEN network comprises 15 trained teams of disentanglement experts with 180 members along the Mexican Pacific Coast and Baja California Peninsula all equipped with specialized gear to assist in the rescue of entangled whales. 

If you want to learn more about RABEN and attention to reports of entanglements visit our alternate site



  • CALL the local authorities (Navy, Harbor Master, CONANP). If possible provide geographic location with GPS coordinates.  Please leave your NAME and MOBILE so we can contact you.
  • DOCUMENT, if possible, take photos and video from a safe distance (no closer than 200ft.)
  • STAY IN THE BOAT. Never get into the water to help a whale.
  • WAIT FOR AUTHORIZED RABEN PERSONNEL. Do not attempt to free the whale on your own. The removal of trailing lines or buoys diminishes the chances of freeing the animal of all gear, leaving lethal wraps behind.

Getting too close or swimming with whales can pose risks to humans and the whales and may alter the whale´s behavior. The Mexican whale watching regulations allow authorized vessels to approach whales no closer than 200ft (330ft for blue and fin whales). Vessels with no whale watching permits have to keep 800ft distance.

Do not get in the water or try to release an entangled whale, it´s very dangerous!

If you find an entangled whale report it to the local authorities (Navy, Harbor Master, CONANP).


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In 1996 we started the Banderas Bay Humpback Whale Photoidentification Project, known as the FIBB Catalog. Until 2017 season, the catalog has 2,686 different photoidentified individuals and a database of more than 7,800 records. We are still working on the 2018-2021 seasons.

Photoidentification is a technique used to identify one humpback whale from another. This is based on taking photographs of the ventral side of the caudal fin or tail, which presents a color pattern that can range from completely white to completely black, and which can also present scars, spots, and notches that all together make every adult individual unique.

Humpback whale photoidentification work is very important for the study and conservation of the species, through photoidentification it is possible to estimate population abundance, study their behavior, their migratory routes, birth rate and much more information, hence its importance.

The FIBB Catalog collects data and photographs from various collaborators who believe in the importance of sharing this information for the benefit of knowledge and protection of this wonderful species. If you want to check out our FIBB Catalog visit:

Our partners:

Since all the various collaborators embark from different places witihin Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Punta de Mita) at least 60% of the Bay´s extension is sampled daily, with a minimum effort of 12 sailing hours, this during each whale watching season (December 8 to March 23).

In 2020, thanks to the support of Biomar Foundation, we started the Humpback Whale Monitoring Project in order to register any significant variation in their distribution, temporality and/or abundance in Banderas Bay. We are sampling the central and south areas of the Bay during the months of November and April, areas and months usually not studied; besides the regular whale watching months and areas. This information, among other things, will enable us, if necessary, to suggest to the corresponding authorities about changes in the whale watching dates, as well as precautionary measures for the protection of this species.

We would like to thank all the people and institutions that have supported us in these projects, especially all the social service, internship, and thesis students along with the numerous volunteers who have participated.