The Eco-Whale Alliance, or Alliance Éco-Baleine, is an initiative operating out of Saguenay – St. Lawrence Marine Park. The Alliance is a member-based organization aimed at highlighting best practice for whale-watching activities to minimize or eliminate any negative impacts on marine mammals .
The Eco-Whale Alliance was born out of a need for stricter guidelines regarding animal wellbeing in the Saguenay – St. Lawrence Marine Park. Members include excursion companies operating out of the marine park, the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM), Sépaq, and Parks Canada. The Eco-Whale Alliance is working to ensure every stakeholder involved in whale-watching ecotourism is invested in sustainable tourism and the conservation of large marine mammals .
Marine Activities Management Plan: The purpose of the Marine Activities Management Plan is to enforce the marine park’s mandate to “increase, for the benefit of the present and future generations, the level of protection of the ecosystems of a representative portion of the Saguenay River and the St. Lawrence Estuary for conservation purposes, while encouraging its use for educational, recreational and scientifc purposes”. The management plan was put in place in 2011 and set out a detailed action plan to ensure the mandate is respected .
Guide to Eco-Responsible Practices: The Guide to Eco-Responsible Practices serves as a manual for marine tour captians and naturalists. It is a comprehensive guide focusing on passenger interactions and navigation within the marine park. The guide emphasizes the importance of education and interpretation as part of a sustainable whale-watching experience. In particular, it emphasizes the role of captians and naturalists as stewards of the land. It is their responsibility to ensure proper respect is given to the marine mammals that guests have the privilege of interacting with .
Eco-Whale Fund: The Eco-Whale Fund was established to support whale research, training, and education in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. It is primarily funded by excursion companies operating in the marine park, which are involved in the Eco-Whale Alliance. Funds are directed towards monitoring and training programs, as well as research and development projects .
Why the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park?
The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is a key habitat for many whale species and is therefore one of the best places in the world for whale-watching . The upwelling zone in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park causes essential nutrients to be pushed towards the surface of the water, providing an essential food source for the whale species that inhabit the area . The most common whale species in the marine park are Beluga, Blue, Right, Fin, Minke, and Humpback whales and the Harbour porpoise. Within the Atlantic populations of these seven species, three are endangered, two are special concern, and two are not at risk .
Goals for Sustainable Whale Watching
The Eco-Whale Alliance has set out the following criteria for excursion companies to ensure sustainable whale watching :
- Emphasize raising awareness of whale conservation
- Limit the impacts of whale watching activities
- Monitor the animals and the effectiveness of management measures
- Follow responsible practices from an environmental, social, and economic point of view
- Develop a multilateral approach to conservation by consulting tourism, research, and conservation stakeholders