Allen Marine, one of our Juneau Whale SENSE Alaska pioneering participants, recently conducted a beach clean-up on Admiralty Island! Using two boats, 22 members of their crew helped pick up trash on the beaches of Piling Point, Barlow Point, Green Cove and Oliver Inlet. Even with bears in the area, the crew managed to gather quite a bit of trash (and still get picked up safely). See pictures of this great effort below! This stewardship project is just one example of how Whale SENSE participants are making a difference!
Photos courtesy of Allen Marine
For tourists visiting Juneau and Southeast Alaska, there is no sight more exhilarating than seeing humpback whales bubble feeding or breaching. Whale watching is a significant part of the local economy, and NOAA Fisheries wants to ensure that whale watching remains a viable and sustainable enterprise.
In response to concerns over the growing number of commercial and recreational whale watching vessels in Southeast Alaska, and the potential to disturb these animals during their critical foraging season, NOAA Fisheries is introducing a voluntary program called Whale SENSE to the Juneau whale watching community for the upcoming 2015 season.
Originally developed in collaboration with the whale watching industry on the East Coast, Whale SENSE recognizes whale watching companies committed to responsible practices. The Alaska program is sponsored by NOAA Fisheries and Whale and Dolphin Conservation. Over the past fall and winter, a working group of Juneau whale watch operators has worked closely with NOAA Fisheries to modify the program to fit the local industry.
“Whale watching is one of the activities that puts Juneau on the map as a world-class visitor destination,” said Jon Kurland, assistant regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Protected Resources Division in Alaska. “We encourage companies to work with us to minimize impacts to whales, enhance the passenger experience, and continue to build a positive reputation for the industry by engaging in responsible viewing.”
Local Whale SENSE participants include Allen Marine, Gastineau Guiding, Alaska Galore, Rum Runner Charters, and Juneau Tours. Participating companies agree to:
- Stick to the regional whale watching guidelines
- Educate naturalists, captains, and passengers to have SENSE while watching whales
- Notify appropriate responders of any whales in distress
- Set an example for other boaters
- Encourage ocean stewardship
“Our goal is an educated and respectful approach to whale watching,” said Aleria Jensen, coordinator for the program at NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region. “We’re proud of these companies for taking a leadership role and committing to stewardship on the water.”
Upon successful completion of training and evaluation, Whale SENSE businesses receive materials identifying them as active Whale SENSE participants featuring the Whale SENSE logo and current calendar year. Based on operator input, changes for the upcoming season include a new logo, revised operational guidelines and evaluation procedures, and flags to identify participants.
Whale SENSE on the web: http://whalesense.org
Alaska humpback whale approach regulations: http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/mmv/guide.htm
Whale SENSE Awarded Tourism Funding
Whale SENSE was recently awarded funding from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to help us promote responsible whale watching in the Greater Atlantic Region! Many thanks to the Foundation for their support! Visit their website for more information on other great Foundation programs:
Meet our members! We’ve been conducting interviews with some of our captains, naturalists, and owners of Whale SENSE companies, and will share them here on our website. This week we talked to Captain Blair Perkins, the captain and naturalist of Shearwater Excursions, about his experiences whale watching.
Growing up in Nantucket, Captain Blair knew from an early age that he loved whales. He recalls one day when his mother surprised him by taking him out of school and bringing him to see a giant, 55-foot finback whale that had been beached on the shore. The sight of the massive whale made a big impression on him, and he began to read more about whales, birds, and other animals. Later in his life, while on a river tour in Mexico with his wife, he realized that he knew most of the bird species he saw, and thought that he could create a similar ecotourism program in Nantucket- and so Shearwater Excursions was born!
On a typical day, Captain Blair begins his tour at 8 A.M. He drives his boat for about an hour and fifteen minutes to reach “whale territory”, and then the fun begins. He posts a lookout to search for spouts and other signs of whales, and is almost always successful at finding one- he has only had a whale-less day once in his 15 years of experience! Once a whale is spotted, he immediately begins to engage passengers about whale biology and conservation, while also following safe whale watching procedures. Captain Blair says his job can be challenging, as he is both naturalist and captain on the boat, but he always manages to keep his passengers safe and entertained.
Captain Blair’s whale preservation message to the public is to dispose of balloons properly! He sees too many party balloons in the water, and encourages children to hold tight to their balloons and keep marine animals from ingesting the plastic.
Thanks Captain Blair! You can check out more updates from Shearwater Excursions at their Facebook page.