June 1, 2007
IFAW hosts five-day whale watch training workshop

A five-day whale watch tour guide and naturalist training workshop, sponsored by IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare – and CARIBwhale, the association of Caribbean whale watch operators, took place last week in Dominica.{{more}}

“The main focus of the course is to provide participants with the skills necessary to safely and effectively conduct successful whale and dolphin watching excursions,” said Dr. Joth Singh, Trinidad-born Director of Wildlife and Habitat Protection at IFAW.

“There is tremendous potential for growth in the whale watching industry in the Caribbean, as part of the global interest in eco-tourism. We are opening up opportunities not only to individuals currently involved in whale watch tour guiding but also to fishermen and to young people who could join the industry. The intent is to ensure that opportunities within the whale watching sector are broadened to create benefits for more people.”

The workshop, which ran from Monday May 14 through Friday May 18, was opened by speakers from IFAW, CARIBwhale and the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Associations, with the keynote address provided by the Honourable Ivor Nassief, Minister of Tourism and Private Sector, Dominica.

Participants included residents of Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada and the Dominican Republic, as most of these countries have growing whale watch industries.

The whale watch workshop covered topics including whale biology, species of the Caribbean, as well as global threats to whales. Working sessions included discussion and development of draft whale watching guidelines for the region. Research sessions introduced the latest in non-lethal science including acoustic technology, genetic sampling and photo ID data collection.

Sessions onboard a whale watching boat included instruction and practice using hydrophone technology, which is used to locate whales based on their sounds, as well as sessions on identifying whales, and whale and dolphin behaviour.

“By providing an exceptional whale watch experience to visitors in the Caribbean, we can do our part to promote tourism here,” said Andrew Armour, President of CARIBwhale. “Whale watching helps the whole tourism economy, with whale watchers contributing economically through hotels, shops, restaurants and transportation.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines was represented by Kim and Earl Halbich and Yohan Little of Fantasea Tours, Noyle Bailey and Ronnell Small of Caribbean Youth Environment Network and Hallam Daize of Sea Breeze Nature Tours.