Hello Sharks Lovers!
For this blog post I wanted to discuss a topic that has become very prevalent in my marine conservation class, which is ecotourism. I’m sure many of you have participated in an ecotourism program before. I want you to think back to that ecotour and evaluate it. How did you find out about this tour? Did you research it beforehand? Did your guide provide you with information on the ecosystem/organism you were interacting with? Was this information accurate? Did it change your ideas and attitudes? Did you make changes in your life after participating? Did you experience something that didn’t feel right? Did the tour have adverse effects on the environment and/or organisms? These are questions that can help you decide whether or not you have or are going to participate in effective and sustainable ecotour.
Below I have outlined some key components to consider.
Things to remember when participating in/booking an ecotour:
- There is no international or even national standard or certification for ecotourism (except in Costa Rica). This means any tour can call themselves an ecotour if they interact with the environment, even if those practices are negative for the ecosystems and wildlife it interacts with.
- Know the difference between an ecotour and a wildlife tour
- There will always be tradeoffs. Many people want interactive programs, like swimming with dolphins, however this is not in the best interest of the animals.
- Tradeoffs in favor of the environment might mean less people will participate, which could cause an increase in price
- RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!
- If something doesn’t feel right to you, don’t participate!
My marine conservation class came up with a list of components that ecotourism programs should consist of. This is not what all or even most of ecotours look like but remember these aspects when booking your next ecotour.
An effective ecotour should:
- Provide a substantial educational aspect taught by someone who has been trained in the field
- Knowledge should cause behavioral and attitudinal changes in favor of organisms and environment
- Limit negative impacts on organisms and the environment as much as possible→ the benefits of the ecotour should outweigh the costs
- Include the community by providing them with jobs, knowledge and funds
- Some profit should go back into the community
- Be small scale
- Be a tool for conservation by providing knowledge to promote change and participating in research to further aid in conservation
Written By: Nikki Tenaglia