18 Feb 2019
Few people are affected more by climate change and biodiversity loss than those that make their living directly from wildlife tourism. Now, one of ecotourism's biggest players, the whale and dolphin watching industry, is fighting back with the most ambitious certification programme ever developed for wild animals.
Launched this month by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), which represents responsible whale watching businesses across 30 countries, a new 'responsible whale watch' certification programme will ensure that all certified tours achieve the highest standards of animal welfare, sustainability, and customer experience.
But that's not all. Each tour operator will also donate $1 per ticket sold to national and international marine conservation and education programmes run by the WCA and its partners. With 13 million people taking whale and dolphin watching trips every year, that could be a massive boost for our oceans at a time when they need it the most!
Said WCA CEO Dylan Walker: “We believe that whale and dolphin watching tourism can be one of the most powerful forces driving ocean conservation and sustainable change for coastal communities. To achieve this the industry must be sustainable itself, and that means having a minimal impact on the whales whilst maximising the environmental message for both tourists and local communities.”
The new certification programme is based on a set of global guidelines launched by the WCA and Club Med in 2018 with the aim of significantly reducing the impacts of tours on the welfare of cetaceans, whilst retaining a high quality customer experience. One of the first tour operators to engage with the certification programme is Virgin Holidays, who have committed to certifying their global whale and dolphin watching supply chain over the next 18 months.
Joe Thompson, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays, commented: “We have stated many times that the way tourists interact with whales and dolphins needs to change, and have implemented a long-term strategy to shift demand away from captive attractions to more sustainable, natural encounters. We are very proud to be a founding partner of this ground-breaking initiative from the World Cetacean Alliance – and hope this will deliver an improved form of tourism that benefits both holiday-makers and these incredible animals.”
The WCA believes that this is a big moment for whale watching and ecotourism around the world. Not only will travellers be assured that certified tours respect marine wildlife and operate with a ‘light footprint’; they will also see how these companies are reinvesting in grass roots projects locally and internationally to protect our incredible oceans for years to come!
For more info about the WCA and certification click here.