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Meet the Partner: Five Star Whale Watching

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HARRY ECKMAN

Chief Executive Officer

ELIZABETH CUEVAS ZIMBRÓN

Whale Heritage Site Project Manager

MIKI TILLETT

Communications Manager

PATICE TALAUE

Certification Manager

STEFF EATON

Operations Manager

ANDREW SCOON

Sussex Dolphin Project, Project Support Officer

THEA TAYLOR

Sussex Dolphin Project, Lead

DYLAN WALKER

Senior Adviser - Whale Heritage Sites

JEAN-MICHEL COUSTEAU

HONORARY PRESIDENT

IAN LEWIS

Trustee, Life College, UK

ROGER MANN

Trustee, Individual Partners

SUZANNE ROGERS

Trustee, Change for Animals Foundation, UK

We love getting to know the WCA Partners better and sharing their incredible stories to the world. This time, WCA Partner and Certified WCA Responsible Whale Watching Operator Five Star Whale Watching gives us a great introduction to their company.

Five Star is an organization that is committed to Educate, Inspire, Preserve and Protect. We are Victoria’s longest running whale watching operator, located in the heart of downtown. With our experience on the water extending over 35 years, we pride ourselves on respectful and educational wildlife tours.

Five Star is passionate about advocating for all forms of marine life in the food web and are especially devoted to promoting recovery of species that need it right now, such as the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW’s) and Chinook salmon.

We collaborate to provide important data to scientists and organizations working towards the research and betterment of cetacean populations, such as The Center for Whale Research.

All of our staff are passionate about the environment, with extensive environmental and wildlife education experience. Five Star acknowledges the importance of doing our own part for natural marine systems. We actively donate/support conservation partners, participate in beach clean-ups, tailor our vessels and tours for eco-friendly choices and provide various digital educational tools and advocacy resources when off the water.

As a founding member of the the PWWA (Pacific Whale Watching Association), Five Star works with the association to provide research organizations (e.g. The Center for Whale research) with accurate and current sightings, behavioural and entanglement data. This in turn helps scientific understanding into cetacean health, population trends and current issues facing their future. For several decades, cetacean scientist Ron Bates, i.e. “The Whale Guru” gained insurmountable behavioural and sightings data regarding the SRKW’s. In addition to all the data mentioned above, we have been able to provide individual cetacean photographs/ identification clues to PWWA and cetacean organizations, which in turn assists in the generation of cetacean individual and family catalogues. We work with social media and even with news organisations to provide insight into current topics and risks involving our local cetaceans.

“At Five Star, we also believe that individual in conjunction with cooperative actions can help foster protection, respect and change for the whole of the marine environment.”

Through our tours, we strongly encourage education and respect for marine life among all of our passengers, and hope that they will continue this long after their tour. We believe that through our respectful wildlife viewing, we have provided guests exceptional and truly unique experiences with cetaceans that they can trust are grounded in ethical practices.

As mentioned, our data provides integral data for scientists and conservationists when they are making decisions regarding cetaceans and their natural habitat. Our regular support and donations have helped these important organizations continue their research, public awareness and monitoring work. The mere presence of PWWA on the water provides accountability for private and commercial vessels regarding speed and distance viewing and travelling guidelines. 

Through the “Whale Reporting Network”, we have helped to encourage communication and reduced speed between commercial traffic (i.e. ferries, freight vessels, etc.). This reduces the risk for ship strikes and risk to humans as well as wildlife. Five Star was one of the first organizations to fly the “Whale Warning Flag”, which warns other vessels about the nearby presence of whales.

Through our missions both on the water and off, we strive to provide a variety of educational materials that promote eco-friendly behaviours, knowledge about cetaceans and how to respectfully share the waterways with marine life (e.g. “See a Blow, Go Slow” Marine Education and Research Society campaign). We strongly believe that the above actions have produced valuable data and protection measures for our marine life. We are hopeful too that our message promoting eco-friendly measures and options has resonated with our geographical and digital community as well.

We believe that every member of the food web is a critical one; from the herring to the Humpback Whale. At Five Star, we also believe that individual in conjunction with cooperative actions can help foster protection, respect and change for the whole of the marine environment. We know it is our responsibility to follow the environmentally friendly choice in our own business, and will continue to make these choices. By continuing to promote education, science, respect and love for the marine environment through our tours and online, we hope that people can all feel a special connection to this incredible marine world.

Five Star has been a WCA partner for just under a year (~ 11 months). WCA presented an opportunity like no other to do more… to be involved with more education, collaboration and cetacean research and conservation projects. Five Star, as the longest-running whale watching operator and one of the founders of PWWA, saw a critical step to our own growth. We saw the crucial work that the WCA was doing and desired to become a part of it, expanding our own practices and knowledge-base of what we could do to become better stewards of the marine environment. By working with members from around the globe, we could become more aware of the important work others are doing and the risks their local environments face, while promoting awareness into those of the Salish Sea’s ecosystems. We also wanted to add another layer of trust towards the guests that choose to book with us; being a part of a trustworthy, ethical and globally-minded organization would hopefully allow them to be even more confidence in their decision.

Whilst we have only been a member for less than a year we have been involved with a number of discussions regarding responsible Whale Watching practices. We hope to be more involved in WCA projects/workgroups in the future.

“Five Star has been a WCA partner for just under a year (~ 11 months). WCA presented an opportunity like no other to do more… to be involved with more education, collaboration and cetacean research and conservation projects.”

We would like to see all Whale Watching companies who are members of the Pacific Whale Watching Association become members of the WCA. This reinforce their commitment to respectful & responsible Whale Watching practices. We would also like to one day see the Southern Resident Killer Whale Population healthy again and be removed from the endangered species listing. This is something that Five Star, along with all members of the PWWA, have been working towards along with organisations such as the Center for Whale Research, Orca Conservancy & Orca Behaviour Institute.

Everyone that wishes to see the SRKW’s survive needs to work together along with the relevant Government agencies, to ensure that the biggest threat to their survival, lack of prey, is resolved as soon as possible.

Find out more about Five Star Whale Watching and book your next trip here: https://www.5starwhales.com/

Jack Booth
Author: Jack Booth

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