Hoyt wrote the first book on whale watching, The Whale Watcher’s Handbook (Doubleday, Penguin, 1984), which zoologist—BBC-TV presenter Mark Carwardine named his number one wildlife-book classic. “When Hoyt wrote this book, he was well ahead of his time…few people had grasped the concept of whale-watching as a major, worldwide growth industry…It has been very influential over the years.” Hoyt also wrote the whale watch resolution that put whale watching on the International Whaling Commission (IWC) agenda in the 1990s. That book, as well as his first book about his seven summers in the 1970s and 1980s with killer whales, or orcas, are considered classic whale texts. Orca: The Whale Called Killer is still in print after more than 30 years.
Among his other books are five written for children and six academic books. Two popular volumes on social insects, The Earth Dwellers, (Simon & Schuster, 1996) and Insect Lives (Harvard Univ. Press, 2002, with Smithsonian entomologist Ted Schultz) broke new ground. In Hoyt’s “delightful…multi-layered” The Earth Dwellers, the “ant’s eye view of life works spectacularly” as Hoyt “fashions the ants into enchanting characters” charting “an insect’s course through sex, aggression and foreign policy”. Insect Lives, an American Library Association “Outstanding Book for the College Bound” is a “potpourri of fascinating excerpts written by some of the finest insect biologists and naturalists spanning many centuries.” A deep sea book called Creatures of the Deep (Firefly, 2001) won the American Society of Journalists & Authors, Inc. Outstanding Book Award, General Nonfiction. A second deep sea book, Weird Sea Creatures, this time for children, has been published in 2013.
Hoyt is currently Senior Research Fellow with WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Director of Marine Mammals for marinebio.org. He also leads WDC’s Global Marine Protected Areas Programme launched in 2008 by Team Russia as part of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race. He is an appointed member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean Specialist Group (SSC-CSG) and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). He is a co-founder and serves on the steering and programme committees of the International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (icmmpa.org).
The research and conservation project Hoyt co-founded and has co-led since 1999, the Far East Russia Orca Project, has pioneered visual and acoustic monitoring, training of Russian students, and whale conservation in the remote, inhospitable Kamchatka seas, and has produced a number of papers on the communication and behavioural ecology of killer whales. This work has led to improved understanding of the animals' acoustic repertoire and complex social structure, which includes matrilineal family clans, pods consisting of several families, and much larger "super-pods". A related project which he co-directs, the Russian Cetacean Habitat Project, aims to study and conserve habitat for humpback, killer, fin, North Pacific right and Baird’s beaked whales around the Russian Commander Islands. In 2013, he helped launch and became co-chair of the IUCN SSC WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force.
Hoyt has been working for whale and dolphin (cetacean) conservation since the early 1970s when his involvement in the first studies of wild killer whales in Canada led to campaigns to create a marine protected area to save their habitat. This, he says, “set him on a path,” and “30 years, 14 books and hundreds of articles later, he has come full circle to the question that he addresses so thoroughly in the research for Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises,” published first in 2005, with a completely revised and expanded second edition in 2011: “What does it mean to save the whales if their habitat is left unprotected?” This work, as well as the supporting website (http://www.cetaceanhabitat.org) “details the current state of cetacean conservation globally” identifying and helping to conserve whale, dolphin and other important biologically diverse habitats in marine reserves and protected areas in the national waters of the world and on the high seas (international waters).
Erich Hoyt’s work is “very much at the forefront of work on marine protected areas,” [driving] the shift from taxon-oriented protectionism (e.g., the Marine Mammal Protection Act) to more ecosystem-oriented approaches to conservation [and] marking…the growing relative importance of marine conservation vs. terrestrial conservation.”
At the same time, Hoyt continues to work on a wide variety of other conservation projects such as multi-disciplinary exhibitions and symposia as well as writing and speaking related to Japanese whaling, whale watching and ocean conservation. In 2010 he co-founded the Beautiful Whale Project and helped to organize and introduce a symposium devoted to “New Tales about Whales in Science, Society and Art” at the United Nations University, Tokyo, as well as the “Eye to Eye with the Whale” exhibition of life-size photographs of Bryant Austin at Temporary Contemporary Gallery in Tokyo, both in December 2010.
A Canadian-US dual citizen, he lives in Bridport, England, with his wife and four children.
In 1985-86, Hoyt was a Vannevar Bush Fellow in the Public Understanding of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, in 1992 and 2000, served as James Thurber Writer-in-Residence at the Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. In 2013, Hoyt won the Mandy McMath Conservation Award at the annual conference of the European Cetacean Society in Portugal for his body of work including books, papers and work on marine conservation