sábado, 8 de setembro de 2007

Nadar com Golfinhos



Resolvi lançar-me de cabeça e espero não me aleijar… 1ª abordagem sobre
“Nadar com Golfinhos”

Nadar com golfinhos é um sonho para a maior parte dos nossos clientes,
mas muitas vezes torna-se num verdadeiro pesadelo para os animais.
Contudo trata-se de uma boa receita diária para as empresas, incluindo
a minha, Espaço Talassa.
Sempre defendi que devíamos assumir uma posição radical e oposta:
permitir a natação com todas as espécies de cetáceos ou então com
nenhuma. A solução híbrida na qual nos encontramos coloca-nos sob fogo,
tanto dos ecologistas e/ou biólogos radicais, como dos ultraliberais,
para os quais tudo deverá ser autorizado.
Passada a fase da ingenuidade, que nos acompanhou nos primeiros anos e
as primeiras tentativas na água, que orientaram as nossas primeiras
milhas nos mares açoreanos, a velha questão continua premente:
Devemos continuar a propor a actividade de natação com os golfinhos nos
Açores?
Neste link podem consultar o que escrevi sobre a natação de golfinhos
há alguns anos:
http://www.espacotalassa.com/03_gb/14_fiches/index_fiches.htm#famille

Logo, colocada a questão, tentarei pesar os argumentos favoráveis e
contra. Aqui estão os resultados:
Prós:
• Boas receitas para as empresas;
• Actividade que permite prolongar um pouco a época turística durante o
Outono;
• Um encontro inesquecível e fora do comum com estes animais.
Contra:
• Risco de acidente para os clientes, que pode acontecer a uma das
empresas, mas que prejudicará todo o sector;
• Forte impacte sobre os animais, sobretudo porque os grupos de
golfinhos durante a época alta turística estão cheios de crias e também
porque alguns desses grupos são espécies residentes (os Roazes, os
Moleiros e, quase de certeza, os Golfinhos-comuns);
• Esta actividade dificulta o trabalho dos barcos de observação e a
qualidade de observação é inferior, já que os golfinhos alvo da natação
com pessoas, têm tendência a evitar contacto com mais barcos;
• Desrespeito da legislação regional, uma vez que para nadar com os
golfinhos, não existe outra solução que não se já realizar uma
aproximação para a frente do grupo, cortando a sua rota, e muitas vezes
a menos de 50 metros de distância do grupo;
• As directivas, legislação ou código de conduta internacional são mais
favoráveis à interdição da natação (WDCS, IFAW…) fornecem argumentos
suplementares àqueles que nos criticam, com razão, por esta actividade.
A resposta é clara e sem apelo: é melhor rendermo-nos à evidência e
parar com a natação com os cetáceos! No entanto é preciso ter em
consideração o impacte comercial desta acção, que resultaria na perda
de uma boa fatia de clientes de alguns operadores, incluindo o Espaço
Talassa. É por isso que proponho:
• Concessão de um prazo de 5 anos a todos os operadores para procurarem
novos nichos ou segmentos de mercado, estabelecendo-se a interdição no
ano de 2013, e aplicável à época de 2014;
• Tomar medidas imediatas, na forma de uma nova portaria, para limitar
o impacte sobre os animais e os riscos de acidentes:
o A natação só poderia ser proposta em barcos específicos, de reduzida
dimensão (máximo 8 metros de comprimento);
o Estabelecimento de uma licença especial para natação, com o número de
barcos autorizados para a natação a serem limitados a um máximo de 50%
do número total de licenças de whale watching emitidas a essa empresa;
o Perda de prioridade do barco de natação sobre um barco de observação;
o Não misturar, no mesmo barco, pessoas de natação com pessoas de
observação de cetáceos;
o O enquadramento da actividade deve ser assegurada por um profissional
(o marinheiro, por exemplo) com curso de Dive Master ou algo
equivalente. O skipper deverá também possuir curso de primeiros
socorros;
o Interdição de realização de natação numa saída única,
estabelecendo-se que cada pessoa terá que sair, no mínimo, 3 vezes para
o mar;
o O cliente terá que fornecer, obrigatoriamente, um certificado médico,
demonstrando ter capacidades físicas para realizar a actividade;
o Obrigação de utilização de fato de mergulho, para limitar os
acidentes de hipotermia, mas também para melhorar a flutuabilidade,
permitindo ao cliente boiar no mar mais facilmente em caso de acidente
ou fatiga;

Estou certo que esta situação será revista rapidamente a nível legal.
Espero as vossas ideias e comentários e outras acções concebíveis.

Serge Viallelle





I’ve decided to throw myself to the sharks, and make this first approach on swimming with dolphins.

Swimming with dolphins is a dream for most of our clients, but sometimes it becomes a really nightmare for the animals. Nevertheless it comprises na important income for tourism companies, including mine – Espaço Talassa.

I’ve always defended we should assume a radical and opposing position: permission to swim with every species of cetaceans or with none. The hybrid solution in which we find ourselves now puts us in a delicate situation: on one side the radical environmental groups and on the other, the ultraliberals, who defend everything should be allowed.

Now that the naivety which accompanied us in our first years has passed, the old question arouses: Should we continue to propose our clients to swim with dolphins in the Azores?

Look what I wrote about this matter some years ago:
http://www.espacotalassa.com/03_gb/14_fiches/index_fiches.htm#famille

As I pose this question, I’ll try to measure the advantages and the inconvenient:

For:
- Good income for companies
- This activity allows to prolong the season a bit more
- Unforgettable and unusual encounter with this animals

Against:
- Accident risk, which may happen to someone, but could be harmful for the entire sector: politicians and biologists would have no problem in stopping this activity definitely
- Strong impact on the animals, mainly because dolphin pods have a lot of baby’s during the tourist season, and among them some are resident (Tursiops, Gramous, and almost for sure, Delphis)
- This activity harms observation boats work: “swim” dolphins avoid boats and usually swim away from all boats
- Regional Law is not respected, because to allow people to swim with dolphins, a boat must approach from the front of the group, and usually nearer than the 50 meters allowed.
- Directives and Legislation in Europe and around the World are supporting the interdiction to swim with dolphins (WDCS, IFAW


The answer is clear: we should surrender to the obvious and stop swimming with dolphins. But we should consider the commercial impact of the loss of many customers of certain operators (of which Espaço Talassa). This is why I propose:
- 5 years should be given, so that operators could search new market segments, and then on 2013 the interdiction should enter into force on 2014


Immediate measures should be taken through a new “portaria”, limiting this activity impact on animals and accident risks:
- Swimming should only be allowed on a specific small boat (no more than 8 meters long)
- A special swimming license should be released, limiting the allowed “swimming boats” to 50% of all licenses emitted for one company
- Swimming boats should not have priority above observation boats
- It shouldn’t be allowed to mix on the same boat, swimmers and observers.
- Number of swimmers per boat should be limited to 8
- Crew should assure safety: one should be dive master, and also have first aid course
- It should be interdicted to swim on a single trip, establishing that everyone should have 3 trips to the sea, at least
- Customers should supply medical certificate
- Customers should use rubber suit, to limit hypothermia, and to allow people to float better, in case of injury or fatigue.


I’m waiting now for your comments, ideas and other possible actions.

I think this subject will be revised very fast. And I’m afraid that the politic decision will be oriented by biologists, with the only concern to protect what they consider as their private garden. We should not forget the fraud about the portaria regulating our activity and creating the São Miguel exception. But this subject will be discussed in the future. Due to our experience in the sea and with tha animals, we should be honestly heard and understood! Let’s show everybody that we fell responsible to find a solution

Serge Viallelle

5 comentários:

Chris Beer/Lisa Steiner disse...

Dear Colleagues,

It was with great interest that we received Serge's email. For several
years, many people in the Azores have been questioning the sustainability
of swimming with dolphins here. We have not offered swimming with dolphin
to our clients for many, many, years now, because of the disturbance we
feel it can cause. Some of the reasons why swimming with dolphins is not a
good idea have been confirmed in Serge's email. Disturbing the animals by:
a) by placing people in the water in front of the dolphins, within 50m.
b) continually approaching the animals to repeatedly put swimmers in the
water (a boat with 12 people must approach the dolphins at least 6 times
to enable all the clients to swim with the animals.) c) swimming with
groups of dolphin that are engaged in feeding activity, d) swimming with
groups of animals that have small calves present, and e) swimming with
animals that are trying to rest. Serge admits that there is a strong
impact on the animals
from this activity. It is also very true that groups of dolphin that have
had swimmers with them are less approachable than other dolphins, making
the viewing for the non swimming whale watchers on other boats less
enjoyable. One day in the future, (if one has not already occurred -
unreported) we believe there will be an accident involving dolphins that
have been pushed a little too far. People always tend to forget these are
not tame animals, they are wild and powerful predators and should they
wish to inflict harm it would not be difficult for them to do so. One
more reason why this activity should be reviewed is that sometimes the
sea conditions are too rough for safely swimming, but we have observed
clients being put in the water regardless, because they have paid for the
activity and must be refunded if they do not attempt to do so.

We believe that if swimming is going to be prohibited with dolphins, the
transition should be made as soon as possible. We realise however that for
commercial reasons this will probably not happen overnight, but perhaps 3
years instead of 5 should be chosen. The animals most affected by this
activity are the bottlenose and Risso's, some of which are resident in the
Azores year round. These 2 species have increasingly become the target for
swimmers, because there have been fewer groups of the smaller dolphins
(spotted & common) sighted in the last few years and these 2 species can
often be found in predictable locations. Whether this decrease in common
and spotted dolphin numbers is a result of swimming with them, or biopsy
sampling which has also taken place here over the last few years on these
smaller species, or some other factor, remains to be seen. But the fact
remains that there have been fewer dolphin sightings and if there is a
possibility that
this reduction has been caused by swimming with the animals, then the
impact of this activity needs to be assessed quickly. Risso's and
bottlenose dolphin are 2 of the larger dolphin species we see here. They
are slower moving, much more dependent on the same areas for feeding and
resting day after day, unlike the more oceanic species, so are more
vulnerable to harassment by swimmers.

In many other parts of the world, researchers are observing negative
impacts on dolphins which are subjected to swimming activity. (I can
provide some scientific papers in pdf format supporting this if required).
The Azores could lead the way in protecting cetaceans by prohibiting this
swimming activity in these islands. This would be good for marketing our
industry and the Azores could become a world leader in sustainable
tourism, instead of following the lead of other, misguided destinations.

We do not agree with allowing a limited number of boats to operate in this
activity. It only takes 1 boat to disturb a group of dolphins. The only
thing that this would achieve would be to allow 1 or 2 operators a
monopoly of this activity and the ability to charge a premium for it,
while still disturbing the animals and affecting the enjoyment of
non-swimming clients. The size of the vessel has nothing to do with the
disturbance to the animals. A small boat which races around the dolphins
at high speed with a loud engine causes much more disturbance than a
larger vessel which operates slowly and has a quieter engine. Remember
that outboard engines make their noise underwater, where it matters most
to the animals.

We do not agree with the need for a long term study of the animal’s
behaviour by DOP as this will be merely repeating work that has been done
in many locations already, around the world. At the height of the season
for swimming with dolphins on the south of Pico, it takes just 60 minutes
of observation from land, to see the disturbance the animals experience
when possibly 4 or more boats try to engage one group of dolphin. In our
opinion this is merely an idea that will put off the cessation of the
activity for a longer period.

Better training of company staff cannot in any way stop the disturbance.
Ultimately people must go in the water with the animals and this, coupled
with the movements of the boats to deploy the people into the water, in
any manner, has a negative impact.

The income to companies from this activity is important but so is the
welfare of the animals and although we would be very happy with an
immediate stop, we understand a compromise must be reached. Companies, who
do well from this activity and rely on swim programmes, have developed
these carefully over a number of years. Many of the "swim with clients"
come here for a spiritual experience and if they realised just how much
the animals were being disturbed, would in fact be horrified. We now feel
that those same companies are quite capable of developing non swimming
activities. Just because the consumer often asks for this activity does
not mean we should supply it. We are a poorer industry for allowing simply
money to dictate our actions.

We sincerely hope that these comments from ourselves and Serge will be
taken seriously and that the activity of swimming with dolphins will be
assessed and regulated in the near future.

We have attached a briefing to ACCOBAMS which was written by the Whale and
Dolphin Conservation Society for their meeting in 2007. The scientific
references listed there can be obtained on request for you.


Sincerely,


Chris Beer/Lisa Steiner
Whale Watch Azores

Frank Wirth disse...

Dear Serge

thank you very much for your proposal about swimming with dolphins. We
are very happy about your engagement and concerns about our Azorean
wildlife!

Pico Sport thinks that before a decission can be made the DOP should
carry out a long therm project to find out about this. After a carefull
decssion should be discussed because as you mention in your proposal,
the swimming with dolphins programm is for some of the companys a very
important part of income.

I myself think that better therms and conditions should be worked out
that say e.g. persons should have a training before the go snorkeling
with dolphins and that they must use the right equipment. ( the use of
mask, snorkel and fins, maybe Neopren suits) .
Only trained guides should be with them and skippers that are trained
to do that kind of job.

For example a work shop can be installed organised in cooperation with
the WW companys and DOP to create the kind os rules and train guides
and skippers before the season.
Pico Sport will also be happy to offer some boats to do some excursions
for the course. We are also very happy to offer the knowledge of our
very experienced international guides that we have on board on each
trip we do.

These are only a few suggestions that we send on a constructive and
cooperative base.

After this is worked out Pico Sport is happy to participate in any kind
of discussion about this.

with compliments


Frank Wirth

Miguel Cravinho disse...

Caro Serge,

Antes de mais queria felicitar-te pela iniciativa de lançar à discussão o tema da "natação com os golfinhos".

Trata-se de um assunto muito pertinente, ao qual a TERRA AZUL tem igualmente vindo a fazer uma profunda reflexão, no sentido de avaliarmos o seu verdadeiro impacto, quer nos animais, quer nos clientes, quer na empresa.

Como sabes, a TERRA AZUL não tem um programa específico de "natação com os golfinhos". Entendemos que este programa não se justifica do ponto de vista da preservação da ecologia dos golfinhos, tendo em conta que nem sempre encontramos grupos receptivos a esta actividade.

É lógico que, se tivermos clientes para a "natação com os golfinhos", obrigatoriamente teríamos que o fazer, caso contrário os clientes têm dificuldades em aceitar a impossibilidade de nadar por razões de não perturbação dos animais. Já nos aconteceu no passado termos pessoas para nadar e nós recusamos porque estávamos a constatar que aquela actividade estava a prejudicar os golfinhos.

Neste aspecto, para nós é claro: o interesse dos cetáceos, a sua conservação e a do seu habitat é uma prioridade absoluta, acima do interesse do cliente que "quer apenas nadar com golfinhos a todo o custo" simplemente porque pagou o um bilhete...

Actualmente, integramos a natação no nosso programa regular de observação. Isto é, damos a todos os nossos clientes a possibilidade de "nadar com os golfinhos", estando a actividade dependente de 2 factores: o estado dos mar (por razões de segurança) e o comportamento dos golfinhos (não nadamos em caso de haver crias no grupo ou em casos que acasalamento ou deslocação, etc.). Apenas nadamos com grupos em alimentação, fazendo-se a natação com a assistência das nossas guias/biólogas marinhas e apenas 2 pessoas de cada vez (conforme legislação), a uma distância razoável da zona de alimentação. Providenciamos aos clientes apenas uma máscara com tubo e um colete de snorkeling para maior segurança.

Sempre que as guias verifiquem uma situação de perturbação, a actividade é cancelada e devidamente explicada aos clientes, que já foram previamente avisados desta possibilidade. Apenas 15% das saídas é possivel efactuar a "natação com golfinhos".

Estamos a implementar este modelo há 2 anos e estamos a estudar o seu impacto no sentido de tirarmos as nossas próprias conclusões. Facto é que não descartamos a hipótese de vir a abandonar definitivamente a "natação com os golfinhos", se constatarmos que, mesmo da forma como fazemos, provocamos um stress desnecessário nos animais. No final desta época vamos decidir quanto a este assunto.

A TERRA AZUL está a acompanhar este assunto a nível internacional e sabemos que a posição da WDCS, da IFAW, ACCOBAMS..., é completamente desfavorável à "natação com os golfinhos". Consideramos que seria bem mais importante para o "WHALE WATCHING AZORES" o reconhecimento destas organizações internacionais e a sua certificação de boas práticas, como forma de promoção do produto, da sustentabilidade da actividade e da protecção da vida marinha. A TERRA AZUL procura enquadrar a sua actividade nos guidelines destas organizações, consciente do seu impacto na empresa, mesmo que isto represente a perda de alguns clientes no programa natação com os golfinhos.

A TERRA AZUL está disponível para associar-se a outras empresas dos Açores que defendam os princípios da conservação da fauna marinha selvagem, da sustentabilidade da actividade do wahle watching, da cooperação com instituições científicas e da promoção do Eco-turismo, através de um "acordo de intenções" ou associação que promova um código de ética geral "AZORES RESPONSIBLE WHALE WATCHING".

A indústria do turismo é um fenómeno global. A grande questão que se coloca actualmente a um destino turístico emergente como os Açores não é "sé temos uma oferta igual aos outros, mas sim o quão diferente este destino pode ser dos outros". Neste particular, acho que os Açores têm todo o potencial para se afirmar pela diferença, pela originalidade e pela preservação e conservação dos seus recursos naturais. Afinal, ter a oportunidade de ver baleias nos Açores deve ser uma coisa muito especial e não apenas uma coisa banal!

Caro Serge, este é, para já, o meu modesto contributo nesta discussão. Podes contar com a TERRA AZUL na defesa destes princípios, os quais estou certo que defendes igualmente... à muitos anos.

Um abraço... Boas Observações

Miguel Cravinho

Ian Coate disse...

Thanks for the email and blog about swimming with dolphins – this is very topical and I thought I would email you with our perspective on this issue.

Personally, I have swam with dolphins in the Azores (and a few other places) and found it to be a fantastic experience provided the trip is operated correctly). There are a great number of vocal purists around who would like to prevent us from doing most things, including swimming with dolphins. I feel that this is unfair, they say the world is getting smaller – which is true in a geographical sense but I think when we look at the biology of the world human kind is distancing its self and increasingly we’re being told that we can only look from a distance or via the TV. One positive side of swimming with dolphins and close contact with other mammals is that it brings humankind closer to the animal world; it helps rebuild the links we originally had and in turn creates more awareness. I feel that if we are moved to the periphery of the natural world then our respect and understanding will diminish.

The answer, in my view, is not to ban swimming with dolphins but to change it into a once in a life time experience. This means adding an educational element to each trip, increasing the cost of the trips (with a marine life welfare tax), limiting the number of trips per year, developing a welfare, swimming and observation policy which can be viewed as the ‘gold standard’ for others to follow.

I do feel that swimming with dolphins and whale watching in general should not be seen as a way to get rich for some people, but a life experience, an educational experience and a unique experience that connects mankind back to the animal world. We need to take a long term view on this issue and not keep swimming with dolphins as the sole preserve of the professional naturalists.

Let me know what you think about the above

Kind regards


Ian

catarina bothelo disse...

Olá Serge


Já dei uma olhadela e posso já afirmar-te que sou totalemnte contra a Natação com Golfinhos. Temos que conseguir transmitir aos nossos visitantes que a beleza do Whale Watching nos Açores é exactamente poder ver os animais no seu habitat e isto, certamente, não passa por metermos os clientes na água no meio dos animais. Para isso, existem os Aquários com animais treinados e habituados a esta situação.

Vender os Açores sim. Mas pela diferença (por isso gosto tanto do Espaço Talassa) J

Um beijinho

Catarina Botelho