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Project BLUEprint will see WDC working with the airline to develop a community-based responsible whale and dolphin watching industry off the coast of Sri Lanka and encourage responsible behaviour amongst local boat tour operators.

As well as raising awareness at a community level, SriLankan Airlines will be showing an inflight film on their planes to highlight the partnership. The airline will raise money for WDC through on-board merchandise sales, with all profits going to WDC. The partnership will also engage local stakeholders and wildlife tourism industries which will help to fund and promote project BLUEprint.

Sri Lanka is one of the best countries in the world in which to enjoy whale watching, where blue whales, sperm whales and 25 other whale and dolphin species can be seen. However, these beautiful creatures are increasingly threatened and endangered by a combination of irresponsible, unregulated whale watching and collisions with boats.

To combat this, project BLUEprint aims to raise awareness, provide training and scientific support to the growing industry so that whales can continue to inhabit the waters, and local people can benefit from a responsible whale watching industry.

The initial focus of the project will be in Mirissa, in the south west of the island, currently the most popular whale watching destination in Sri Lanka. Once established, responsible whale watching will be rolled into two less-developed whale watching sites, Trincomalee in the north east and Kalpitiya in the north west, to safeguard the industry before there is any rapid increase of untrained vessel operators or a lack of community leadership which can manage the growing whale watching industry as a result of an expected influx of tourists wanting to see the whales.

Chairman of SriLankan Airlines, Mr Nisantha Wickremasinghe, comments: ‘We are proud to be associated with the WDC initiative and look forward to embarking upon this project together. Raising awareness and educating the local community about responsible whale watching is of utmost importance in ensuring sustainable tourism. “

Vanessa Williams-Grey, responsible whale watching programme manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, says: ‘Sri Lanka has the potential to be one of the top destinations in the world for watching blue whales. We have over ‘two decades’ experience in training operators and encouraging responsible viewing practices, and WDC believes that a partnership between all stakeholders will lead to healthy whales, happy tourists and a thriving community-based whale watching industry in Sri Lanka.’