World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) (1) — sankalpa supported activity

World Cetacean Alliance

United Kingdom

Bringing together a mix of commercial tour operators (tourist whale and dolphin spotting boats), NGOs, scientists and educators to improve the lives of cetaceans through the delivery of community focused training and education programmes.

Cetaceans are undoubtedly the most popular group of marine animals on earth which is why so many holidaymakers are keen to see them. We see whale watching as a first step in engaging huge numbers of people and influencing them to take responsibility for protecting the seas.

Dylan Walker, World Cetacean Alliance CEO

After developing the Responsible Whale Watching Certification and receiving excellent take up in countries including Mexico and South Africa, the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) — the largest network of whale and dolphin watching experts — had been struggling to roll out the programme in countries where boat operators don’t tend to have the funds required for training.

As a way to reduce costs but achieve maximum impact, the WCA concluded that providing certification training would only be possible (in certain countries) if whale watching cooperatives were developed, in partnership with local NGOs.

To administer the setup of these cooperatives, sankalpa has funded a full time staff member for 12 months. The new team member is cocreating the programme alongside NGOs, fishing and whale watching communities in East Africa and South America.

As an organisation we were trying and failing to grow. All our funding was coming from project related fees and so we were unable to stand on our own two feet and we kept deviating from our mission. Opportunities for charities in the early years just don’t exist and so we were becoming exhausted by constantly trying to fight fires as opposed to focusing on growth. Then we found sankalpa — they work quickly and their processes are simple, a joy!

Dylan Walker, World Cetacean Alliance CEO​

With 13 million tourists annually choosing to spend their holidays whale watching, the WCA saw these figures as a clear opportunity to reach and influence a significant number of people. 

The WCA’s approach is about bringing people together to overcome individual differences. Through defining and meeting common goals, the WCA is balancing marine conservation activity with the commercial needs of communities dependant on making their livelihoods from the fishing and tourist industries.

World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) (2) — sankalpa supported activity

In many countries fishers are very used to, and comfortable with, the cooperative concept. Group working means we can dramatically reduce our costs by working through local NGOs, while ensuring that they too benefit financially from the work involved.

Dylan Walker, World Cetacean Alliance CEO

Although plastic pollution is widely reported for its hazards to marine life, fishing nets are the biggest threat to large marine mammals. Key reports such as the 2012 paper from Conservation Biology found that entanglement was the primary cause of death of whales between 1970-2009, and ICES Journal of Marine Science reported in 2019 that North Atlantic right whales have been in decline since 2011, largely due to vessel collisions and entanglement in fishing gear.

WCA developed the first global certification for whale and dolphin watching in 2019. The Responsible Whale Watching Certification is given to operators who can prove that their guides and crew have the understanding required to operate with a high standard of local wildlife care, sustainability and customer experience.

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