"All the certifications we have, all the signs that we can give internationally for sustainability and the value of the activity here end up reflecting positively, either in the activity or the region itself," explained José Azevedo, one of the promoters of the application for this certification, granted by the World Cetacean Alliance.
The application, having been prepared since 2015, comes from a group of volunteers, from scientists of the University of the Azores to businessmen linked to whale watching and other tourism activities, as well as municipalities.
According to José Azevedo, the application should be delivered "by the end of the year" and the Azores have a good chance of receiving this certification.
"Whale watching in the Azores is an example on a worldwide level," he stressed.
The biologist stressed that the activity has been regulated since it began, in a collaboration between businessmen and scientists, which has always involved a "concern for sustainability".
The certification will "reinforce the sustainability and quality of the whale-watching experience in the Azores", as well as promoting the archipelago as a sustainable destination, argued the Azores University researcher.
On the other hand, the application "has an associated continuous process of verification that the initial conditions are maintained", which implies a commitment for that sustainability to be maintained in the future.
José Azevedo admitted the need to follow the evolution of the activity in the Azores, but said that the regulation has always been based on a dialogue between businessmen and scientists.
"Initially, whale-watching was done in semi-rigid waters. These semi-rigid boats have since increased in size and now some companies have opted for a new system of larger boats that take more people. There are some issues, in terms of regulations, that need to be adjusted," he said.
The process of reviewing the regulations is "already underway" and the researcher believes that whale-watching still has potential for growth in the Azores.
"We want to encourage other islands that also have whale-watching activities, we want to regulate the issue of boats, to smooth out some issues related to the evolution of the market. There is work that is already being done, based on a lot of participation", he revealed.
For José Azevedo, the certification will also be a "stimulus" to "deepen the relationship of the Azores and the Azoreans with the cetaceans, as living beings and as part of a dynamic oceanic ecosystem".
Whale hunting, forbidden since 1984, had a great weight in the Azorean economy and whale watching has brought a new "paradigm".
The promoters will collect "contributions and ideas" for this deepening of the relationship of Azoreans with whale watching, in a meeting at the University of the Azores, in Ponta Delgada, on Saturday, where the application to become a 'Whale Heritage Site' will be disclosed to the public.
Azores to be distinguished as a sustainable whale-watching destination
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