June 15, 2011
An Alliance is created for eco-responsible whale watching activities in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park
Quebec, June 15, 2011 - The stakeholders of whale watching tours in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park along with Jean Lemire announce the creation of the Eco-Whale Alliance with the goal of continually improving marine observation activities to make them a model of sustainable use.
Eco-Whale Alliance is sponsored by Jean Lemire - biologist, filmmaker and honorary ambassador of the Green Wave, a global campaign to educate youth about biodiversity by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It brings together the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM), marine tour businesses for whale watching in the Marine Park as well as Parks Canada and Parcs Québec, co-managers of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park.
Eco-Whale Alliance is based on the Plan for Sea Activities in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, a document elaborated by Parcs Québec and Parks Canada in collaboration with local stakeholders involved with marine activities. In addition, the Alliance has developed a Guide for Eco-Responsible Practices for Captains/Naturalists and has created the Eco-Baleine Fund for research and education on the whales of the Marine Park.
By supporting the plan and developing new tools, Eco-Whale Alliance is raising the quality standards of the Marine Park's activities at sea. For example, captains of the whale watching cruises are as much “guardians” of the whales as they are navigators.
The marine observation activities in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, only park co-managed by both the Quebec and Canadian governments, already benefit from supportive measures. One of these measures is the Marine Activities in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Regulations, which was developed in collaboration with the stakeholders and adopted in 2002. The Plan for Sea Activities in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, supported by Eco-Whale Alliance and the two new tools it has developed will complement this unique Canadian regulation.
"I welcome the creation of the Alliance, an important initiative for protecting the whales and promoting education. Whale watching cruises, when practiced in an environmentally-friendly manner, are great family activities that raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of our planet," says Quebec biologist and filmmaker, Jean Lemire, Alliance patron.
Created in 1998, the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is a marine protected area that is part of the networks of Parks Canada and Parcs Québec. It is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. The managers of the park are happy to join with Eco-Whale Alliance, which is committed to protecting this unique national treasure. This alliance fits perfectly with the guidelines of the Marine Park that aims to consult local stakeholders in order to achieve its conservation objectives and to offer visitors the opportunity of enjoying the incredible beauty of the marine flora and fauna.
Since the 1980s, the GREMM has been conducting research and educating people about the whales of St. Lawrence. "We have always worked in concert to ensure that whale watching cruises remain extraordinary awareness activities performed while respecting the needs of the whales. We believe that the Eco-Whale Alliance is both a commitment based on continual improvement and recognition of the involved local stakeholders’ efforts," notes Robert Michaud, president of the GREMM.
By participating in Eco-Whale Alliance and supporting innovative tools, marine tour business owners would like to raise the bar for eco-responsible practices. "We offer observation activities to the visitors in a unique environment and are collectively taking the necessary measures to make these activities a model of sustainable use. The marine tour businesses will adopt practices that adhere to the protection regulations of this exceptional marine area,” stated the representative of the marine tour businesses in the Marine Park and president-CEO of Croisières AML, Mr. Yan Hamel.
1) Developed by Parcs Québec and Parks Canada, the Plan for Sea Activities in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park includes about thirty measures to be implemented in the coming years. These measures were developed following an extensive process of consultation concerning park management, regulation, ecosystem conservation, sustainable use of resources, enhancement of natural heritage and public awareness. They will serve complementary roles to improve the protection of the marine mammals, and enhance the quality and safety of the visitor experience.
2) The Guide for Eco-Responsible Practices for Captains/Naturalists includes several measures that go beyond the regulations to encourage good conduct at sea. A true collective effort, this guide was developed by a working group of captains, naturalists, reception staff, marine tour business owners, employees of Parks Canada, Parcs Québec and the GREMM. It is based on the practical experience and competence of the operators. It covers several aspects of marine outings: public messages, navigation, visitor safety and comfort, whale protection, regulatory compliance, good conduct, etc. The guide also includes a chart that describes the captains’ eco-responsible duties in 10 points.
3) The Eco-Baleine Fund will support activities for research, training and education on whale watching activities in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. Hosted by the Fondation de la faune du Québec (FFQ), the fund will be jointly managed by members of the Alliance and the FFQ. Marine tour businesses will provide continual support to the fund and the Alliance members will also develop fundraising strategies that appeal to the public and other businesses.
These three new tools supported by Eco-Whale Alliance are key elements that will make sea observation activities in the Marine Park models of sustainable use.