Education has become an essential strategy for governments and many local and international organisations in protecting the environment. Environmental interpretation aims to explain meaning and relationships through the use of original objects, first hand experience, and illustrative media (Tilden 1957) , the outcome of which is increased awareness and knowledge on the environment among visitors. This enables people to act responsibly and reduce their impact within protected areas and make wiser decisions concerning nature conservation.
The IWC General Principles for Whale Watching (IWC 1996) suggest that one of the methods to manage the development of whale watching for the minimisation of adverse effects is to develop training programs for operators and crew on the biology and behaviour of target species, whale watching operations, and the management provisions in effect.
(IFAW, WWF et al. 1997) convened an international workshop to quantify and examine the educational values of whale watching hosting whale watching experts from 16 countries. At its conclusion, the workshop recommended:
That workshops and other educational methods be encouraged for the training of tour guides and operators; and such training tools be developed by cooperation between governments and NGO's That a system for certifying tour guides and operators be established, as the quality of tours would increase where permit regulations mandated the presence of a qualified tour guide in the operation Developing the skills of crew and quality of education being provided on whale watch vessels has been identified as a priority by wildlife managers in several states in Australia and recently by government, industry, scientists and NGO participants at the NSW Whale Watching Forum in Sydney, May, 2005, facilitated by IFAW.
Whales Alive was invited by IFAW and the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) to deliver a whale watching training workshop to marine tourism operators of the Sydney region, as a joint activity of the NSW Whale Watching Forum. The new training program received much positive feedback from operators and managers, which precipitated requests from DEC and the Marine Parks Authority to run the training in other whale watching centres along the NSW coast, prior to the commencement of the 2005 whale watching season.
We have developed a training and certification program for whale watch operators consistent with best practice. The Whales Alive Whale Watch Operator and Guide Training Program aims to set skill levels of whale watching guides and standards for the quality of information being presented on board whale watching vessels by producing the training materials necessary to meet the identified skill requirements of guides for the delivery of a successful whale watch operation.
The training program is being used as a management tool for the delivery of a successful and responsible whale watch operation, so as to ultimately minimise potential impacts of tourism on whales and maximise the educational value of the experience to tourists.
For more information on the training program is please contact us.