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Strategies for Marine Wildlife Tourism in Small Islands States Azores ICS 2013 Plymouth University
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Strategies for Marine Wildlife Tourism in Small Islands States Azores ICS 2013 Plymouth University


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Strategies for Marine Wildlife Tourism in Small Islands States Azores ICS 2013 Plymouth University …

Strategies for Marine Wildlife Tourism in Small Islands States Azores ICS 2013 Plymouth University
Andrew Williams Jr
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  • 1. Strategies  for  marine  wildlife  tourism  in  small  islands      the  case  of  the  Azores     Julia Bentz1, Philip Dearden2, Helena Calado3 1 CIBIO Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources - Department of Economics and Management - University of the Azores - Ponta Delgada, Portugal; 2 Department of Geography - University of Victoria - Victoria, BC, Canada; 3 CIBIO Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources - Department of Biology - University of the Azores - Ponta Delgada, Portugal; Abstract Small islands typically exhibit characteristics like isolation, smallness, limited natural and human resources, which limit their capacity to embrace development. Marine wildlife tourism (MWT) can combine the apparently conflicting goals of development and conservation. It has potential to provide significant benefits to local communities and ecosystems, when it is carefully managed. The Azorean islands have a great potential for MWT, given highly diverse marine ecosystems and various types of resident and migrating cetaceans. Several MWT activities are taking place though effective management is lacking. Whale watching and other MWT activities such as scuba diving have an increasingly important role within the tourism sector, as the Azores offer good conditions for watching oceanic species close to the shoreline. Recently shark-watching demonstrated potential for a new MWT activity. There is no island or regional-wide strategy for MWT in the Azores, that assesses its potential and impacts and makes recommendations on how it can be developed in a sustainable manner. The goal of this project is to contribute to the sustainable development of small island economies through developing guidelines that will ensure MWT as a mechanism to conserve nature while supplementing local livelihoods. A specific objective is to develop a conceptual model of MWT for small islands that can be integrated in regional planning instruments and apply the model to a specific case study, in order to recommend the optimal development strategies and necessary management interventions for MWT development in the Azores. As a first approach, experts and stakeholders of the whale watching industry were interviewed in order to develop an understanding about their interests and perceived problems of the activity in the Azores. The results showed various management gaps. The opinions of the interviewees differed especially upon the management of the activity and its current sustainability. The assessment suggests strongly the need for further research to evaluate the effectiveness of management policies using an integrated approach that incorporates both social and biological aspects of this and other MWT industries. The authors suggest a multidisciplinary, participatory approach for effective co-management, providing a holistic view of the problem and forming the basis for adaptive management and thus the long-term sustainability for the activity. Sustainable management of marine wildlife tourism It is important to ensure that tourism activities targeting marine wildlife are managed in a sustainable manner both from a social and biological perspective (Ziegler et al., 2012). Social impacts include influences on tourist satisfactions, through perceived crowding, for example while local communities may face a loss of social cohesion. Potential biological impacts of tourism activities include effects on the marine species themselves (e.g. changes in behavior and/or health) and their habitat (e.g. key feeding and/or breeding areas). Case Study: whale watching in the Azores Conditions: As the Azores offer good conditions for watching oceanic species close to the shoreline, whale watching is attracting increasing numbers of tourists. Twenty- five cetacean species can be observed in the Azores. Resident common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales can be spotted all year long. Migratory baleen whales can be spotted in certain seasons of the year. Techniques: The whale watching operators use a technique from the former Azorean whale hunting tradition to find the whales. Land based lookouts (Portuguese: “vigias”) scan the sea with binoculars in search for cetaceans and provide information to the whale watching vessels (Neves-Graça, 2004). This technique provides a high success rate (Sequeira et al., 2009). Management: Twenty-three operators have active whale watching permits to offer trips in these islands. Methods Stakeholders and experts were interviewed in order to develop an understanding of their interests and their point of view about the problems of whale watching in the Azores. Nineteen semi-structured interviews were conducted during the summer season of 2012. From five different stakeholder groups – whale watching operators, Regional Azorean Government, Maritime Police, fisheries associations, University of the Azores – at least one representative was interviewed. Within the group of operators, representatives from three different islands were interviewed. During the interviews, notes were taken and after the interview, the answers were grouped and summarized. Results Table 1: Summarized results on strengths, weaknesses and conflicts of whale watching in the Azores STRENGTHS WEAKNESSES CONFLICTS Nature destination: Azores is a nature tourism destination. Pristine natural environments allow many activities on land and sea. Remoteness is exotic; Observed species: 25 cetacean species; Resident sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins; Baleen whales in the spring. Vessels: mostly small boats (12 passengers); 1 catamaran (ca. 80 passengers); Technique of lookouts: high success rate and less gasoline; sharing of lookouts; Legislation: well regulated; permits to control the activity and prevent unsustainable growth; Inspection: operators follow the rules; New are inspections on board. Sustainability: Economic and social sustainability assured. Remoteness: Azores is not a well-known tourism destination; Flights are costly; No mass tourism; Planning: Weak tourism infrastructure; Promotion is limited to Europe; Absence of a clear tourism course; Climate: Instability, rainy seasons; Reduced tourist numbers in winter. Technique of lookouts: Absence of network of lookouts; Unequal sharing of lookouts. Legislation was copied from another place; distances need to be adapted; Legislation the same for all cetaceans Inspection: Lack of inspection; operators against inspection on board; Disrespectful behavior towards cetaceans; Lack of resources of the maritime police; Environmental impacts: Ecological footprint of the activity; Number of licenses with potential to grow; Adaptation of the law decree to bigger boats, more licenses. Unpredictability of sightings Viability: Agencies keep a big share of the tickets; Viability of the activity: Cost of licenses; Swimming with dolphins: change of animal behavior; safety of customers; Competition: First boat has observation priority: Conflicts between companies; Lack of cooperation. Lack of whale watching association. L o o k o u t s : C o n f l i c t s between lookouts. Inspections on board by armed maritime policemen intimidate customers. Management: insufficient regulation/ management of the activity. Fishing: dolphins are responsible for reduced fish catches. Discussion and Conclusions The stakeholders and experts agreed on the positive conditions in the Azores for whale watching. However, they disagreed on a number of topics. Remoteness/smallness: The remoteness of the islands was seen as positive (exotic) by some and negative by others, who would prefer higher numbers of tourists and saw the remoteness as an obstacle to achieve this. In the same way, the tourism infrastructure was classified as weak by some stakeholders, whereas others regretted the modernisation, which would take away the uniqueness and simplicity that some tourists seek. These arguments reflect the discourse about island tourism amongst several scientists. Several authors have accentuated the constraints and weaknesses of small islands (such as remoteness, isolation, smallness, and the dependence on a small range of export goods) (Calado et al., 2007, McElroy, 2000). However, small islands also have great potential in some fields (Scheyvens and Momsen, 2008), namely, tourism. Isolation can be a benefit for tourism because it makes the destination more attractive and exotic. Butler (1993: 71) referred to it as the ‘Robinson Crusoe factor’, meaning that tropical islands embody the holiday aspirations of Western consumers, as they are associated with romance and adventure. In fact, islands are among the most visited tourist destinations in the world (WTO, 2001). These arguments indicate the need to agree upon a region wide tourism strategy in the Azores, as mentioned by one stakeholder. Sustainable management: Another topic of disagreement was about the performance of whale watching, its management and ultimately its sustainability. Stakeholders disagreed about whether operators followed the rules about minimum distances, speed and maximum observation period or not. Inspections on board by the maritime police are an attempt to solve this problem, but the implementation has been met with a refusal of the operators and a lack of financial resources of the maritime police. Improving whale watching management is a difficult task because of the unwillingness of the operators to work together. Opinions also differed regarding the sustainability of the activity. For some, the activity is no longer sustainable and management needs to be improved. More research is required to assess the effectiveness of management policies using an integrated approach, that incorporates both social and biological aspects of the industry. Acknowledgements We would like to thank the stakeholders and experts, for their valuable insight knowledge. References •  Butler, R.W. (1993). Tourism – an evolutionary perspective. In: J.G. Nelson, R. Butler and G. Wall (eds.), Tourism and sustainable development: Monitoring, planning, managing. University of Waterloo Heritage Resource Centre, Waterloo, pp. 27-44. •  Calado, H., Quintela, A., Porteiro, J., 2007. Integrated Coastal Zone Management Strategies on Small islands. Journal of Coastal Research, SI 50: 125-129. •  McElroy, Jerome L., 2000. Managing Sustainable Tourism in the Small Island Caribbean, available at: sids-2000.pdf •  Neves-Graça, K. 2004. Politics of Environmentalism and Ecological Knowledge at the Intersection of Local and Global Processes. Journal of Ecological Anthropology Vol. 10, 19-32 (2006). •  Scheyvens, R. and Momsen, J., 2008. Tourism in Small Island States: From Vulnerability to Strengths, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 16: 5, 491-510. •  Sequeira, M., Elejabeitia, C., Silva, M.A., Dinis, A., de Stephanis, R., Urquiola, E., Nicolau, C., Prieto, R., Oliveira, C., Cruz, M.J., Freitas, L., 2009. Review of whalewatching activities in mainland Portugal, the Azores, Madeira and Canary archipelagos and the Strait of Gibraltar. J. Cetacean Res. Manage. SC61/WW11. •  Valentine, G., French, S., Clifford, N., (eds.), 2010. Key methods in Geography, 2nd Edition. SAGE Publications, 545 p. •  World Tourism Organization, 2001. Conference on Sustainable Development and Management of Ecotourism in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other Islands, final Report, Mahé, Seychelles, 8-10 December, 2001. •  Ziegler, J., Dearden, P. and Rollins, R., 2012. But are tourists satisfied? Importance-performance analysis of the whale shark tourism industry on Isla Holbox, Mexico. Tourism Management, 33: 692-70. Fig. 1: Geographic location of the Azores archipelago (Source: Centre of Geographic Information Systems, University of the Azores ) Fig. 2: Sperm whale, Physeter macrophalus; Scientific illustration © Dr. Adriano Quintela