Humpback Whales in the Eastern Caribbean

Whale and Dolphin Conservation is dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins,  defending these remarkable creatures against the many threats they face through campaigns, lobbying, advising governments, conservation projects, field research and rescue.  WDC aims to inspire global action to protect these animals, envisioning a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.

 
Humbpack Breaching.  Image V.Vivadelli/WDC
Humbpack Breaching. Image V.Vivadelli/WDC

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The Project

The Eastern Caribbean is the breeding area for a newly discovered sub population of humpback whales.  These whales face numerous human induced threats throughout their range including vessel strikes, entanglements in nets, chemical and noise pollution, and hunting. By working with local conservation experts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, this project will implement a successfully tested model for a community-based eco-tourism operation that will benefit both whales and the local community. The goal is to promote the conservation of this distinct population of whales through the development of responsible whale watching while respecting the cultural legacy of the community. Funding will assist in the delivery of responsible whale watch trainings for local operators, in-school educational programmes for students, and a tourist-based citizen scientist programme that can help provide necessary data to better understand and protect this unique and less known population of humpback whales. This project will:
- incorporate whale education into at least 6 local schools, reaching 400 students
- engage locals and tourists to take part in logging whale sightings and taking images to be catalogued
- work with one local responsible whale watching company to ensure best practice is observed

 
Mother and Baby.  Image Paul Robinson/Wildplanetearth
Mother and Baby. Image Paul Robinson/Wildplanetearth

The Update

This project is now complete and has made good progress despite some difficult challenges faced by the project.
Successes:
- The project has worked very hard at educating and trying to change perceptions of whaling in the community through educational workshops and presentations in schools. Power point presentations have been developed for use in primary and secondary schools, along with information cards and posters.
- Local educators were trained and 16 presentations conducted in 12 schools in the communities, reaching 500 students.
- This has culminated in a positive change in attitude within the communities, with many young villagers no longer wishing to pursue a career in whaling. Indeed, some experienced whalers are now also considering a transition from whaling to whale watching.
- Whale information panels have been installed in the Whaling and Boat Museums on Bequia to provide information and education to locals and visitors.
Challenges and future:
- The devastating impact of category 5 hurricane Irma reverberated around the Caribbean, and although Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was largely spared from the devastating losses suffered by much of the Caribbean, the impacts on reduced tourism are being felt throughout the region.
- Unfortunately the project was not able to successfully launch a whale watching enterprise within the term of this project. However, with much of the ground work already laid for it’s set up, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation are now providing training to a local ex-fishermen to pursue the successful establishment of a whale watching enterprise in Saint Vincent.
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We are hugely grateful for the support of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, without whose support we could never have realised such an ambitious project.
Hugo Tagholm, Surfers Against Sewage