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Whale and dolphin watching can generate huge amounts of money – Mitchell-Joseph

Whale and dolphin watching can generate huge amounts of money  – Mitchell-Joseph

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Last year, whalers on Bequia went out to sea every day for three months; they chased many whales, even harpooning one that eventually got away, but for the entire whaling season, no income was generated.

Chair of the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust{{more}}Louise Mitchell-Joseph said that if the whalers had instead chosen to do whale and dolphin watching, instead of hunting the cetaceans, they could have generated huge amounts of money.

On Monday, Mitchell-Joseph, during a press conference at the National Trust Headquarters in the Carnegie Building (Old Public Library), said that the Trust is currently involved in an initiative with the Argentinian group Fundacion Cethus to protect the cetaceans that frequent and live in our waters.

This latest wildlife preservation effort has seen the two entities combine to hold a three-day workshop on whale watching. The workshop comes to an end in Bequia today, Friday, October 24.

On Monday, during the press briefing, Mitchell-Joseph explained that the workshop comes from a wider initiative to help St Vincent and the Grenadines with the business of whale watching.

“The whalers could have had tourists with them on those trips and make money. The whales are around and 80 per cent of the time when boaters go out, they see dolphins,” stressed Mitchell-Joseph who pointed out that not only persons in Bequia can make money from whale watching, but also persons in coastal villages in St Vincent and the Grenadines who operate boats can make money from doing whale and dolphin watching cruises instead of hunting the creatures.

She said that St Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the only countries in the region that is not taking advantage of this trend, while the Trust, with the help of Fundacion Cethus, sent several whalers to the Dominican Republic to observe whale watching first-hand with the aim of helping and encourage them to move in that direction.

“We have not taken advantage of that here to the full extent that we should,” stressed Mitchell-Joseph who added that a few people do it here, but the activity is not supported by Vincentians although they go abroad and visit places like Sea World.

She revealed that discussions have shown that some locals involved in whale and dolphin hunting are very open to stopping whaling and going into whale watching, while one whaler on Bequia has given up the practice of whaling and is converting his boat to take tourists on watching trips.

This particular seaman is hoping that by January when the whales come back into the waters, he can start doing trips.

Meanwhile, president of Fundacion Cethus and Alternate Commissioner for Argentina at the International Whaling Commission Miguel Iniguez was present at the press briefing.

Iniguez said that they do workshops in different countries, while he stressed that this activity can help persons make money, as well as make whale and dolphin watching an important part of Vincentian communities.

This activity has generated over US$60 million in Argentina.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the coastal community. Different species of cetaceans live here, so we will try to show communities how to do whale watching. We want to share with participants our experience in Latin America and we are open to learn from their experiences here. We hope we can work with the communities and participants as this can be up to a three-year process”, said Iniguez who made the trip with Carolina Cassani, a member of Fundacion Cethus.

The workshop was open to any person who wanted to learn about the benefits of whale and dolphin watching.