05 Jul Responsible Whale Watching – A WCA Partner focus
A blog composed by Bright Young Things, a Brighton-based student team, and the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA).
In the first two of our blog series discussing Responsible Whale Watching we have brought you the thoughts of three of our responsible whale watch Partners. Now let’s find out a little more about these three wonderful people and their organisations.
Header image: Miranda van der Linde
Nic Slocum – Whale Watch West Cork
Whale Watch West Cork are the only dedicated whale and dolphin watch operator based in West Cork, Ireland. They offer half day whale and dolphin watching experiences in the mornings, afternoons and, during high summer, evenings. Trips run seven days a week from April 1st to December.
When asked what initially drew Nic to working as a responsible whale watch operator he explained that it was his first-hand experience of seeing how bad encounters with cetaceans were managed elsewhere. Nic says that with some operators it is clear that ‘the prime objective is making money or showing guests something their competitors cannot and all else comes second.’
The cetacean’s well-being is clearly top priority for Nic and Whale Watch West Cork. They have developed a Code of Conduct that incorporates Irish statutory guidelines and includes that which they judge to be minimum requirements for interaction between boats and specific cetaceans in Irish waters. Nic’s team aim to continuously improve this Code by ongoing internal assessments during each season. It is striving to constantly improve practices that has resulted in Whale Watch West Cork being awarded recognition by the Irish Centre for Responsible Tourism.
Whale Watch West Cork operates two boats, which are licensed for only 12 passengers. This creates a more personal experience where education can really be delivered.
The best moments on any whale watch is when wild cetaceans come up to your stationary, engines-off boat, of their own accord and interact. Second only to when you are able to create an experience that reduces a guest to tears… of joy
Nic Slocum’s best moments
Angie Gullan – Dolphin Encountours Research Center
Dolphin Encountours operates in southern Mozambique and was established in 1995, when founder Angie Gullan came face to face with wild dolphins. Today Dolphin Encountours ‘specialise in creating a safe space for intimate encounters to take place with wild dolphins while contributing to their wellbeing’.
As the business developed Angie and her team developed DolphinCareAfrica, a research and conservation initiative. Through this they have collected and collated a long term data set of images and videos, with over 8000 entries and 250 cetaceans catalogued. Focus is primarily on inshore bottlenose dolphins but also includes other species of interest such as Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins and humpback whales.
Angie clearly loves the dolphins she works so closely with every day and says the team at Dolphin Encountours is ‘happiest when we are out in the field, checking on our finned friends and are deeply committed to our role in protecting their environment’.
Dolphin Encountours offer a range of daily whale and dolphin watching tours, along with a number of long term volunteer opportunities that offer a more hands on experience learning about ethical marine mammal tourism as well as gaining experience in land based observation, photo ID, cataloguing and data entry. All of their tours highlight the importance of responsible whale and dolphin watching and follow strict guidelines especially for in water encounters with dolphins.
Amanda Stafford – The Whale and Dolphin Connection
The Whale and Dolphin Connection is a Brighton-based company operating trips in the Azores. Amanda was also drawn to responsible whale watching when witnessing bad practices and seeing the impacts this has on the animals. The Whale and Dolphin Connection only works with local people who have high standards of professional expertise and environmental awareness. The local team also has considerable wisdom and sensitivity in how they approach the animals, strictly following local whale watch regulations.
Amanda is always looking to improve The Whale and Dolphin Connections practices and states that moving forward, a major focus of their work will be ‘making tours more of a learning experience’. This includes investing in educational videos for clients to learn about the cetaceans they might encounter and what it means to watch them responsibly.
The Whale and Dolphin Connection offers weekly tours year round to watch whales, with particular focus from April to June on the mighty blue whale.