Group to promote whale watching
March 28, 2013
Group to promote whale watching

There is a greater economic benefit to be derived from the whale as a living resource in our waters, rather than as a source of food.{{more}}

This was the message conveyed by a delegation of five, who recently returned from a four-day whale watching expedition in the Dominican Republic. The group’s intention now is to promote the idea of whale watching on the island of Bequia, which has traditionally been known for its whale hunting.

The team was led by Kari DaSilva of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, with the other members of the team being Gaston Bess, Javan Stowe, Alicia Lavia and Richard Ollivierre.

They met on March 20 with members of the press to share their experiences and to discuss the way forward, as they set out on their task of changing the minds and attitudes of those in their communities.

“A holistic package can be marketed for whaling,” DaSilva said.

“The visit to the Dominican Republic was quite enlightening, educational and informative,” she continued.

Whale watching was an advanced feature in the Dominican Republic’s tourism product, she said.

According to Da Silva, there had been over 40,000 visitors for this season, which runs from December to March, so far, and the industry is estimated to have generated an income of about US$150,000.

Javan Stowe said that he immediately took up the opportunity offered to him to see first-hand whales in their natural habitat.

“It was really, really good,” he said, adding that the trip taught him a lot about the huge sea mammals.

Stowe, who has a history in whaling, explained that while an individual on a team of eight or nine persons may end up making $500 to $600 on one kill, watching whales was far more sustainable and more financially sound than killing them.

He said that he intends to return to Bequia to try to persuade his father, who captains one of the whaling vessels, to consider getting into the business of whale watching.

Gaston Bess said that the trip changed his perception of whaling and he now said that he fully supported the idea of whale watching, rather than killing whales.

“I used to defend whalermen — harpooners — now since I have spoke to Miss Louise Mitchell, I have a different view about killing whales,” Bess explained.

He said that he was amazed by seeing how the whales interact in their own natural habitat and community.

But he too, while acknowledging that the experience was one of a kind, admitted that the job of persuading his people was not going to be easy.

“We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we hope that starting next year, we can begin incorporating whale watching on Bequia,” Alicia Lavia said.

“I think it’s time that the whalermen put down their harpoons.

“It is time we start thinking something new — it is going to be difficult, it is really going to be hard to get the people on Bequia to turn their minds from what they are accustomed to,” Lavia said.

The team was hosted by Peter Sanchez, administrator of the Dominican Republic Marine Whale Sanctuary and facilitated by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic. (DD)