Get away from the coast by boat, stop in the middle of the sea, wait just a few moments … and then there they are, those wonderful animals that emerge from the water and swim close to the hull. It is a unique sight that of the sighting of dolphins e whalesbut no one ever thinks about the impact these have tourist activities do they have on the physical and mental health of animals?
It all started around 2014 thanks to “Friend of the Sea“, The project of the“ World Sustainability Organization ”, an NGO committed to the protection of endangered species, which also certifies products from sustainable agriculture and breeding all over the world. “Friend of the Sea” started this project in collaboration with “Worldrise“(Cristina Fiori, scientific director, and Mariasole Bianco, marine biologist), a non-profit organization of young professionals based on the conservation and enhancement of the environment which, since 2018, has seen the project called”The Gulf of Dolphins”, Aimed at developing responsible tourism in Golfo Aranci.
The most sustainable way not to impact cetaceans would be to completely eliminate the dolphin and whale watching business: this, however, is unfortunately a utopian alternative. The positive side is that these excursions can turn out to be real dissemination toolsthanks to which to talk about the problems of dolphins, and therefore raise awareness about the theme of cetaceans, thus turning everything in favor of the cause.
For this reason, “Friend of the Sea” has decided to create one certification for tour operators with rules to be respected for the welfare of animals and the sea.
But what are the criteria to follow for Dolphin and Whale Watching activities? Maximum approach distance, elimination of single-use plastic on board, training for operators and crew: these are just some of the rules envisaged for conducting eco-sustainable tourism that respects nature. “Another important requirement – he explains Mario Passoniproject manager – is do not disturb animals during certain activities, such as mating, hunting or resting. Precisely for this reason, one of the requirements for certification is the presence of a marine biologist on board. However, this is not always possible. And so, for the 10 operators of Lampedusa, we have created a dedicated course, in collaboration with the organization MeRis (Jessica Alessi), through which to study and raise awareness on this issue. The response of the Lampedusans was nothing short of positive “.
At the moment the certification has been attributed to 10 operators in Lampedusa, 6 in Sardinia and one in southern New Zealand, but the goal is to expand this awareness network more and more, in Italy and in the world. On the “Friend for the Sea” website it is possible to consult a list of companies that meet the certification criteria of sustainable seafood products which include aquaculture and fisheries product and services, dolphin and whale watching businesses, fishmeal and fish oil producers and suppliers. For all those who, on the other hand, want to observe and respect these splendid animals at the same time, it is possible to find all the Dolphin and Whale Watching certified “Friend of the Sea” operators participating in the project. Watching dolphins and whales is a unique experience, even more special if done with respect.