Sri Lanka together with the 20 member Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has come forward to build a sustainable whale and dolphin watching tourism in the Indian Ocean region.
Speaking at the event IPS Executive Director, Dr. Saman Kelegama stressed the importance of member countries working together to ensure that growth in the tourism sector is socially, ecologically and economically sustainable in the long term to the benefit of all member states. “Great care must be exercised in managing whale and dolphin watching tourism, if we are to achieve the desired sustainable outcomes; and that growing opportunities for income must be prudently combined with conservation of biodiversity.”
The workshop emphasized that sustainable whale and dolphin watching tourism can provide valuable direct and indirect positive impact for economic empowerment of women and youth with significant spill over effects into the tourism sector value chain.
Participants recognized that the behavioral ecology of whales and dolphins, as long-lived, slow and late reproducers and socially complex species, render them particularly vulnerable to human disturbance and can result in them experiencing detrimental effects from tourism operations, if not carefully managed.
Cetaceans face threats such as ship strikes, competition with fisheries, by catch, chemical and noise pollution, marine debris and climate change.
Participants recommended measures to further share expertise and experiences, particularly capacity building, establishment of a Whale and Dolphin Watching Tourism Network and strengthened scientific and academic collaboration.
Speaking at the event Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Bryce Hutcheson stressed the importance of blue economy as a programme for policy priority and key to sustainable growth in the IORA region. Blue Economy is refers to marine-based economic development that leads to improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, joining the technical sessions reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to the conservation of marine species and resources.
The workshop was supported by the Australian Departments of Environment and Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka, IORA Secretariat, International Whaling Commission and Murdoch University’s Cetacean Research Unit.