Will whale watching and sportfishing lawsuit change industry practices?

Landings in Newport Beach were found guilty of deceptive advertising, but it’s unclear whether jury verdict will alter behaviors.

NEWPORT BEACH—A jury verdict against four Orange County entities offering whale watching and sportfishing services certainly gained the attention of landings up and down the Southern California coast. Newport Landing, Davey’s Locker, Ocean Explorer and Freelance Sportfishing were all found guilty of engaging in false or misleading advertising. But what is the verdict’s effect on the industry?

Much has yet to be determined, so there isn’t much FishRap News can report on at this time. Indeed this will be an ongoing exploration of whether the jury verdict has any teeth and will cause various landings to be more transparent in their advertising, if they aren’t already engaging in accepted practices.

The jury verdict, of course, only applies to the four parties named. We don’t fully yet know what the verdict means, partly because we don’t yet know the damages each guilty party is facing. Also in the mix: We don’t know how deep down the rabbit hole this practice of deceptive advertising goes.

A simple Google search is somewhat revealing. The deceptive advertising verdict, for starters, tilts more toward whale watching excursions – meaning, there were more false advertising claims associated in the whale watching space than for those seeking sportfishing trips. FishRap News confirmed this interpretation of the recent jury verdict from a few sources.

So what does a Google search show us? Type “Dana Point whale watching” into the search bar gives us a few results. The first non-ad result is for www.newportwhales.com, with the linked text reading “Dana Point Whale Watching $16 special.” Newport Landing, which is based in Newport Beach, is offering whale watching off the coasts of Dana Point and Laguna Beach. Such advertising would certainly be an issue for Dana Wharf, which also offers whale watching in the same space.

Another search result says, “Whale Watching $13 Offer | Dana Point.” The link will take you to Davey’s Locker, which is in Newport Beach. The text below the website and hyperlink reads: “Offering year round whale watching cruises daily viewing whales from Dana Point to Laguna Beach from Newport Bay in the heart of Orange County.”

These two search results are still active on Google, several weeks after the jury verdict was issued.

So what’s on tap? FishRap News tried reaching out to the attorney who represented Harbor Breeze, the plaintiff in the lawsuit against Newport Landing, Davey’s Locker, Ocean Explorer and Freelance Sportfishing. All we know so far is there will be a penalty phase.

FishRap News has also reached out to a few local sportfishing and whale watching companies to gather their reactions to the jury verdict. We will update our coverage as soon as we hear back from them and know more about the judge’s penalty (or penalties).

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