Hello Internet users,
My 2011 season in Canada as a whale watching boat captain will have a new beginning. Indeed, the boat companies and the local authorities have published a "Guide of eco responsible practices for boat captains".
All the actors wish that "whale watching activities in the marine park become an international model for the responsible practice of whale watching". A big challenge but I find the approach interesting. It is said in this guide several points:
1. A whale watching industry that is responsible :
- raise public awareness about conservation,
- minimize the impacts of whale watching activities,
- monitor the resource and the effectiveness of management measures,
- adopt responsible practices from an environmental, social and economic point of view,
- to work in a spirit of cooperation by bringing together actors in tourism, research and conservation.
2. For the passengers, the eco-responsible captain:
- Make sure you get the word out,
- Presents the Marine Park and the Regulations in a positive light,
- Involves passengers in the search for whales,
- Highlights the first whale sighting,
- Diversify the content of the excursion,
- Can make any observation "interesting",
- Avoid observation sites that are too far away as much as possible,
- Adapt your trip plan to the weather conditions,
- Has empathy for its passengers,
- Catch the waves safely and comfortably,
- Take advantage of the return to pass on a conservation message.
3. For the whales, the eco-responsible captain:
- Reduce speed and be vigilant,
- Avoid concentrations of boats,
- Includes at least three observation stations in its tour,
- Limit your time at a busy site: 30 minutes or one "good" observation,
- Works in a spirit of community with other captains,
- "Protects" viewing by passengers on other boats and visitors to land sites,
- As much as possible, stay still at an observation site,
- Enforces the Regulations even outside the boundaries of the marine park,
- Preserves a "bubble" around the beluga and blue whale,
- Presents as a privilege the observation, even at a distance, of the beluga and the blue whale.
4. For safety and professionalism, the eco-responsible captain :
- Expresses himself/herself to all with politeness and courtesy,
- On marine radio, makes concise and useful points,
- In foggy weather, slow down and be extra vigilant,
- Acts respectfully with other users of the environment,
- Report dangerous situations to Trafic Escoumins without delay,
- Exercise particular vigilance for kayaks in the most frequented sectors,
- When required, communicates with researchers and cargo pilots to better plan his trips.
5. During the excursion, the captain :
- Presents the marine park and regulations in a positive light,
- Presents the estuary: tide, salt water,
- Points out that the region is a destination for several species of migratory whales,
- Mentions that there is an exceptional abundance of food,
- Draws attention to the diversity of the environment (marine mammals, birds, surface prey, etc.),
- Identify the whales and seals encountered,
- Talk about the beluga whale, its status and its personal contribution to the recovery of the population,
- Highlight the work of other types of stakeholders encountered during the field trip (pilot, park ranger, researcher, etc.),
- Uses his or her experience and background,
- Presents other attractions than marine mammals (e.g. navigational aids, birds, geographical landmarks, etc.),
- Invites passengers to visit interpretive centers or land sites to learn more.
Then, the guide ends with the 10 "commitments
that the captain undertakes to do :
- The captain tells the passengers that the excursion will take place in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, an area created to protect whales and their environment.
- By his behavior, the captain encourages all users to respect the Regulations on activities at sea and the Guide to eco-responsible practices.
- The captain plans the trip so that the passengers experience a natural adventure, not a visit to the zoo or a sporting experience.
- The captain communicates with professionalism and courtesy with his passengers, colleagues and all users of the environment.
- The captain generates a sense of privilege in his passengers by emphasizing that each excursion is unique, by highlighting the diversity of attractions and by drawing on his experience and knowledge.
- The captain plans his movements and positioning on the site in such a way as to "protect" the observation of passengers from other boats and observers on land sites.
- The captain adapts his navigation and his excursion plan according to the weather conditions and circumstances, with the comfort of the passengers in mind.
- The captain contributes to research and conservation efforts by reporting injured whales, rare species and other unusual incidents in the area.
- The captain invites his passengers to continue their discovery of the world of whales beyond this excursion (land-based observation sites, interpretation centers, other sea excursions, etc.).
- The captain takes advantage of the excursion to pass a message on the fragility of the environment and our responsibility to protect it.
The park where I work, requires extra work for the captains, and not only to "pilot a boat"! Until now and during my travels, I have never read or heard such an initiative. It must be said that this place is unique for whale watching and companies have been working on it for years. It is a whale industry! These animals bring in money only during a few months of the year. A tension is palpable at sea.
What I would like is to no longer see unacceptable behavior by captains at sea, and to respect the distances. I know my attitudes at sea and my respect for these animals. When you read my article entitled "When boaters harm whales... (August 2010)", I was already horrified by what I saw at sea. There was a real problem! I even thought of stopping... What is said in this guide, I work on it every day as best as I can. I admit that the fatigue, the work rhythm and the number of laps prevent me from giving the best of myself every day. Especially in foggy weather! My environmentalist side, my experiences at sea, the knowledge of the place, my trips, bring to the tourists a new look on the whales. However, I have to improve on many points and this guide reminds me of that!
See you soon.
Samana, Dominican Republic, April 2011.