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Protecting humpback whales in the Eastern Caribbean
Thanks to our friends at Ternua, we were nominated for a grant through European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) to fund our work to protect humpback whales in the Eastern Caribbean. Since receiving the grant, we've been hard at work to achieve our goals on this project. Here is some of what we've been up to!
Nearly 30 species of marine mammals can be seen throughout the waters of the Eastern Caribbean. This abundance of marine wildlife proves that it is not only a perfect area for whale watching, but also an area worth protecting. We’re working hand in hand with local experts to create activities that inspire a new model of eco-tourism which will protect and enrich an area of immense natural beauty - the perfect destination not only for watching whales, but also for outdoor activity lovers. Among the many species that can be seen in these waters includes a newly documented sub-population of humpback whales1 who come here to mate and give birth. Little is known about this population, but through the involvement of local residents and tourists, documentation of these whales can help provide the necessary data to protect these vulnerable majestic creatures.
With support from EOCA, SVG's Preservation Fund, and our conservation partners, we are working with locals in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to devise a model for a community-based eco-tourism operation that will benefit a small and newly-discovered unique sub population of humpback whales as well as the local community. The goal of this project is to promote the conservation of this distinct population of humpback whales through the development of responsible whale watching while respecting the cultural legacy of the community. So far we:
Hosted responsible whale watch training workshops for current and potential ecotourism operators
Whale watching is an industry worth more than $2.1billion USD annually worldwide, and the more than 13 million passengers help to support many local economies2. If done responsibly, whale watching can be a safe and economical way to view and study whales without disrupting them. If you are interested in arranging a whale watching trip in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information will be available soon.
Hosted a cultural exchange trip to New England
We were able to bring three Vincentian natives with ties to ecotourism and aboriginal subsistence whaling practices to New England for a week of watching whales, networking with whale watching operators and naturalists, and a visit to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The press in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines covered their experience through a recent article.
Developed and implemented in-school educational programming for students
We are working with locals on the ground to implement educational programs in schools throughout Saint Vincent and Bequia to empower youth to understand, preserve and benefit from the whales and marine wildlife in the waters off their island. Students learn about how whales are similar to humans, how researchers identify different species and different individuals within a population, and what to look for to find whales off their own coast. For more information on our education work, read our blog.
Encouraged tourist-based citizen science
Visitors to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines can help researchers by familiarizing themselves with regional protected marine resources as well as provide necessary data that will help to fill in data gaps in certain regions like the Eastern Caribbean. Visitors can download our sightings reporting form here or request a copy from Saint Vincent and Bequia's tourism offices, and let us know about the marine mammals you see. Over 30 different species of marine mammals can be found in the waters off Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but little is known about these populations. Every sighting counts!
1Stevick, P.T., Bouveret, L., Gandilhon, N., Rinaldi, C., Rinaldi, R., Broms, F., Carlson, C., Kennedy, A., Ward, N. and Wenzel, F. 2015. Humpback whales in the southeast Caribbean are behaviorally distinct from those off the Dominican Republic. Paper SC/63a/AWMP2 presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, San Diego, California, USA. May 2015
2O’Connor, S., Campbell, R., Cortez, H., & Knowles, T., 2009, Whale Watching Worldwide: tourism numbers, expenditures and expanding economic benefits, a special report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Yarmouth MA, USA, prepared by Economists at Large.