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SVG should rethink whaling on the Leeward coast – Mitchell

SVG should rethink whaling on the Leeward coast – Mitchell
DIRECTOR OF THE St Vincent and the Grenadines Preservation Fund Louise Mitchell

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ST VINCENT AND the Grenadines (SVG) should rethink the killing of orcas and dolphins in preparation for hotel development on the Leeward coast and the commercialising of eco-tourism.

That is the view of Director of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Preservation Fund Louise Mitchell who spoke with SEARCHLIGHT after the killing of an orca off the coast of west coast town of Barrouallie last Saturday.

Mitchell said despite calls from her organization and tour companies, this country still has not passed legislation prohibiting the killing of orcas (killer whales) and dolphins.

She said that while orcas are not listed as endangered, the species killed on Saturday is protected internationally and was the same species killed in March 2017 while tourists were viewing them during a whale watching tour.

“The tourists were horrified, and the cruise operator was upset that their customers had to witness the killing and made their concerns known to government.

SVG should rethink whaling on the Leeward coast – Mitchell
BARROUALLIE WHALERS Lennox Stephens and Kirk Grant

“…and the PM went to Parliament and made a statement in May 2017 saying that SVG will ban the killing of orcas and certain species and a lot of persons assumed that it would happen, but the the regulations were not passed so there is no law in SVG protecting orcas and dolphins,” said Mitchell.

As a result, the whalers in Barrouallie continue to kill them, she said.

Mitchell said that persons had relied on the Prime Minister’s statement, but he did not follow through to stop the killing of orcas and dolphins.

She is concerned about the conflict between tourism development at Mt Wynne and Buccama and a totally unregulated whaling industry in Barrouallie.

While SVG is not doing anything wrong in the eyes of International Whaling Commission (IWC), tour operators could stop coming and this can damage of tourism product.

Acknowledging that whaling in Barrouallie cannot immediately be made illegal because many people there depend on it for a livelihood, she however said it can be slowly phased out by offering whalers an alternative.

She also suggested zones where whale watching is allowed and hunting is banned.

As for Bequia, Mitchell said the situation there is different because of how infrequently whales are caught there.

She posited that whaling there can stop as whalers do not depend on it for regular income.

“It is once every two years they kill a whale, so it is not about economic subsistence as is the argument made by SVG at the IWC for whaling in Bequia.

“It is mainly a cultural thing in Bequia but in Barrouallie because you have families who are reliant on whaling, an average of 200 whales are caught in Barrouallie a year, they can say it is a livelihood,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell suggested limiting the killing of orcas or dolphins, while allowing fisherfolk to continue killing the short fin pilot whale/black fish as 70 per cent of the whale caught there is of that specie.

“This gives them income … until we can find an alternative source of income for them … and gradually phase out with alternative livelihoods,” Mitchell said.

She noted that she manages the SVG Environment Fund, an initiative that supports whale watching and is helping persons make the transition.

She said the group is in the process of helping two persons transition into doing tours by providing them with the tools to make the transition.

“…We believe that Barrouallie can become the centre of conservation, a village that shifts away from hunting to whale watching and that has often happened around the world,” stated Mitchell.

She said persons who say that there are insufficient whales in our waters for whale watching, should note that whalers in Bequia were this week again chasing whales.

“[To] the people like Snagg who say we do not have enough whales to do watching, there are a lot of whales and it is a viable business,” said Mitchell.

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