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ESO develops Tourism Guidelines to protect Sultanate’s Whales and Dolphins

January 2, 2014 8:40 am

In line with the ongoing Renaissance Whale and Dolphin Project, Environment Society of Oman (ESO), an officially accredited Non-Government Organisation (NGO) by the United Nations General Assembly, recently organized the first ‘Whale and Dolphin Watching Guidelines Workshop’ for Ministry employees and tour operators. The two-day workshop, supported by Renaissance Services SAOG and the International Whaling Commission, explored best practices and realistic field training to protect whales and dolphins from the potential harmful impact of tourism while formalizing industry standards.

Employees from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth (MAFW) and the Ministry of Tourism (MOT) joined whale and dolphin watching tour operators at the Oman Sail Sailing School at The Wave, Muscat, for the first day of the workshop. Visiting scientist Dr. Carole Carlson, Co-chair of the Sub-committee on Whale Watching for the International Whaling Commission, led the discussions to make operators aware of their responsibilities and maximize the benefits of sustainable tourism.

Stephen R. Thomas Group Chief Executive Officer of Renaissance Services SAOG, said, “The workshops provide a platform that raises conservation awareness and takes action against potential threats. Through scientific research and increasing the environmental education available to tour operators in Oman we will be able to identify and define the whale and dolphin population and types of species living in local waters while minimizing the impact of tourism. Our ultimate goal is to introduce a formal accreditation and licensing procedure that ensures tour companies are operating within the agreed guidelines.”

The second day of the workshop included sea training on Oman Sail’s boat, setting sail from Marina Bandar Rowdha. Participants were given a course on how vessels and people should behave around the animals by using caution, traveling at low speeds and being alert at all times. Boats should maintain caution zones of at least 50 meters from dolphins and 100m from whales, approaching them parallel and slightly to the rear, not from directly behind or head-on, to avoid startling them.

Suaad Al Harthi, Project Manager of ESO, said, “Oman is fortunate to have a variety of dolphins and whales inhabiting our waters and with some of the species categorized as endangered, it is essential that we look into the best ways to sustain and protect these populations. This includes finding a suitable method to allow tourists to enjoy the nature of Oman and tourism companies to conduct successful business without disturbing or harming the animals.”

Oman is home to over 20 species of whales and dolphins, accounting for over a quarter of the world’s species, including the genetically distinct and non-migratory Arabian Sea Humpback Whale. ESO’s Renaissance Whale and Dolphin Project works with a group of volunteer scientists who gather information, conduct research, maintain a database of animal sightings and strandings, and perform emergency rescue services for whales and dolphins stranded on beaches or caught in nets.

For more information, please contact:
Shaza Taher
TRACCS Public Relations
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Tel: +968 24 649-099
Fax: +968 24 649-088