UK skippers earn accreditation for wildlife viewing
17th April 2003 (ENS)
The UK's first wildlife friendly marine accreditation scheme, known as Wildlife Safe (WiSe), is training skippers in the southwest of England to operate pleasure trips to protect and get the best views of marine wildlife.
While legislation exists to protect species from damage or disturbance, enforcing this legislation is very difficult, even more so at sea, says English Nature, a government agency responsible for environmental protection.
Codes of conduct have been developed to influence the way people should behave near wildlife, but "public awareness needs raising" of the damage, which could be done by a speeding boat to a basking shark feeding at the water's surface, or to a small group of dolphins encircled by onlookers.
"The best way to enjoy the wildlife in and over our seas is to see it behaving naturally and not reacting to the presence of people nearby. That is why we believe the WiSe scheme is so important," says Victoria Copley, English Nature's marine operations advisor.
The response to the training has been positive, the agency says.
"This is a great way to improve the standard of marine wildlife trips,” says Nigel Smallbones, coastal zone manager with the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust who attended the first WiSe training course, held in Torbay. "It will help people to provide quality trips and is a very worthwhile course for all boat operators."
Ken Lane, a boat proprietor from Dart Princess Pleasure Cruises, agrees. "As a boatman, it is encouraging to see an organization providing courses to assist and enable people to appreciate the natural world around our coasts."
The WiSe scheme is designed to work with commercial pleasure craft owners to encourage marine ecotourism to operate in a wildlife-friendly way. It is funded by English Nature, Marine Southwest, European Social Fund and the South West Regional Development Agency. It is supported by The Wildlife Trusts, WWF-UK, The Shark Trust, MER and South West Tourism.
Initially the WiSe training is available to commercial boat operators based in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, and, if successful, will be extended across the UK. Already there have been requests for the courses to be run in other parts of the country. On completion of the course, participants will be listed as an Accredited WiSe Scheme Operator and will be awarded the WiSe logo for display on board boats and for associated promotion as responsible operators.