Cetaceans Observatory

French Polynesia is a veritable oasis of life, thousands of kilometers from the closest continent. The marine biodiversity is not itself exceptional, but the isolation of the Polynesian archipelagos has contributed to protecting resources and maintaining an abundant marine life. The clarity of the water contributes to the approachability of marine species.

A website dedicated to the Observatories of sea turtles and marine mammals

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In 2012, Te mana o te moana has held a website based on cetaceans in order to give a better knowledge of the regulations and to collect informations on marine mammals of Frenh Polynesia.

You will find on the website educational materials, scientific, methodological tools and you can directly participate in the harvesting of observational data.

Some informations about the Marine Mammals Conservation in French Polynesia :

Observation of cetaceans by tourist operators began in 1990 on Moorea and has now become a major commercial activity in French Polynesia. On May 13th, 2002 French Polynesia’s Ministry of the Environment created the “Marine Mammal Sanctuary of French Polynesia”.  In 2005, the economic value of this activity was estimated around 657 000 USD. Tahiti and Moorea (Society archipelago), Rurutu (Austral archipelago), and Rangiroa (Tuamotu archipelago) are the islands primarily concerned with this activity. Services in charge of environmental affairs and some professionals began to worry about the potential impacts on observed animals.

Nowadays, there are more than forty commercial organizations offering this activity on a regular or occasional basis. Commercial companies are required by law to get a special dolphin and whale-watching permit, and they have to respect the relevant legislation concerning the approach and observation of the animals. Nevertheless, tourism development is often accompanied by an increase in environmental footprints. It is in the interest of all the concerned participants to ensure a reasonable exploitation of the resources.

A survey of marine fauna… from the air!


Whale Watching in French Polynesia


French Polynesia is one of the world most exceptionnal places for cetacean observation, due to its rich marine fauna, its clear waters and easy approaches. It has therefore seen a great development of eco-tourism activities, especially observation of whales and dolphins at sea – usually referred to as Dolphin and Whale Watching.

Whale Watching as a commercial activity has developped since the 1990s. To protect the cetaceans visiting the Polynesian territorial waters, the polynesian Ministry of environment has set up, in 2002, a Sanctuary for Cetaceans. In this 5,5 millions square kilometers wide area, cetaceans are legally protected and all tourism operators are requested to ask for a special authorisation and to comply with a number of rules for the approach and observation of cetaceans at sea.

An Observatory for Cetaceans


In 2010, te mana o te moana implemented various awareness raising activities for tourism operators about sustainable tourism, reminding them of the regulations and “good practices” for whale watching.

The need for more information, and the need to educate the operators in the delivery of their activities, was strongly felt.

In 2011, te mana o te moana therefore decided to set up the Cetaceans Observatory in French Polynesia.

The Cetaceans Observatory’s aims are:

  • to collect  observations
  • to analyse and make available the collected data
  • to develop educative tools for tourists and residents, helping them in their efforts for a more environment-friendly behaviour at sea.

This project is funded by the TOTAL Foundation (the French supermajor oil company), the French specialist retailer, Nature et Découvertes Foundation, the Moorea Dolphin Center company, the IFRECOR and in partnership with the Direction of the Environment.

Tools for whale watching

For the information of local residents, tourists and professionnals, te mana o te moana has issued various tools, available to all persons or private societies wishing to contribute to cetaceans’ protection and to the observation network.

<< Click here to download :


Identification card for Cetaceans of French Polynesia
for the most frequent 16 species of cetaceans in French Polynesia (in English and French)



News of French Polynesia :

Humpback whales into the harbor of Papeete – Tahiti – 0ctobre 13 th of 2013

This post is also available in: French