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‘Whale watching more lucative than whale hunting’

‘Whale watching more lucative than whale hunting’

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As we struggle to be competitive internationally, we must find things to distinguish ourselves and looking towards our environment and promoting tourism activities like whale watching is an extremely good idea.

With this philosophy in mind, the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust continues to encourage the abandonment of whale hunting here and last week held seminars teaching persons about the benefit of whale watching.{{more}}

One such seminar was held on, Friday, January 5 in Barrouallie at the National Parks office and was addressed by Carolina Cassani of Fundacion Cethus (a non-government, non-profit organization, with objectives fixed on investigation, divulgation and conservation of cetaceans) and Miguel Bottazzi of Tito Bottazzi Tours in Argentina.

On February 1, Louise Mitchell, chair of the SVG National Trust, told a gathering at the National Trust office on Granby Street that whale watching is much more lucrative than whale hunting and persons here could make a living from it and should consider abandoning the cultural activity that kills numerous whales here yearly.

She said that whales are some of the most magnificent creatures in the world and here, we have five different species of whales that can be viewed year round, making whale watching a feasible industry that can generate money throughout the year.

Although this is so, said Mitchell, we have never capitalized on this.

Among the species of whales here are short fin pilot whales, sperm whales and humpback. Mitchell said that persons are also interested in seeing orcas, dolphins and turtles, among other creatures that inhabit the sea.

She stressed that other countries in the world have embraced whale watching and in places like Argentina, there are brochures that show the country’s coastline, but these brochures also show the different species of whales that are in Argentina.

“Locally, there has been a focus on hunting and eating and enjoying that as a cultural activity, but there is so much more benefits we can have if we switch to whale watching and started to really appreciate these magnificent creatures that we are so lucky to have in our waters. It could be a new cultural experience for family and tourists,” said Mitchell.

She said that former chief whaler Orson Ollivierre has already embraced whale watching and has hung up his harpoon.

“The transition of whalers is already happening,” said Mitchell, who, however noted that this transition is only taking place in Bequia, as the huge whaling business in Barrouallie kills numerous short fin pilot whales, dolphins, porpoises and many different orcas yearly.

She said that eight killer whales were caught in Barrouallie last year and two were pregnant and that is a shame, as these creatures are treasured in the rest of the world, “and we are still killing them in St. Vincent.”

She noted also that the number of whales killed in St Vincent and the Grenadines over the years is unknown, as statistics were not kept for the massive unregulated industry. She said that the Fisheries Department has just begun to keep records and persons are claiming that there is an orca in Barrouallie that may be different to other species in the world.

Mitchell said that while persons on whale watching tours in St Vincent and the Grenadines may not always see whales, there is so much more to explore here and persons will be just as happy to witness our landscape, the thousands of birds at Battowia and the beautiful snorkelling areas like the sunken Antilles cruise ship off Mustique.

“We have such a fantastic package, so it’s not whether you see a whale, but you can go on a nature tour and see what SVG has to offer,” said Mitchell.

Cassani said that from her experience here, seeing whales is an extra attraction, but the landscape, turtles, birds and snorkelling is product that internationally, people would love to pay to see.

“The experience is far broader that whale watching and the experience in international standards is very high,” said Cassani, whose points were supported by Bottazzi.

Bottazzi said that his family has been doing tours in Argentina for a number of years and what he has witnessed in St Vincent and the Grenadines is exclusive.

He said that even the ride from Bequia on board the ferry is a unique experience and he is hoping to share with locals, his experience, as whale watching can become a major economic activity for coastal communities here.

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