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Dolphin Watchers Group Oppose M&C Plan

The St. Lucia Whale and Dolphin Watching Association (SLWDWA) has elected a new executive.

Whale watch operator Christopher Hackshaw is the incoming Chairman replacing Douglas Rapier who had held the position from the Associationís inception in 1996. Caroline Aimable of Mystic Man Tours in Soufriere is the Associationís new Vice President.

The meetingís major topic however, was the proposed dolphin encounter facility planned for Tapion Bay by Minvielle and Chastanet Ltd. and their partners, Dolphin Fantaseas.

The associationís membership unanimously agreed to oppose the plan as being detrimental to both the dolphins and the whale watch operators.

"One of the worst aspects of this venture" said chairman Chris Hackshaw, "is that they propose to capture dolphins in St. Lucian waters. These are the very same dolphins we take people out to watch", he lamented.

St. Luciaís whale and dolphin watching industry is one of the fastest growing components of the islandís nature tourism sector. "These tours are in the top three sellers with all the tour operators", said Hackshaw. "They go unmentioned, however, on the Tourist Board web site!"

"At least 10 whale watch operators with boats ranging in size from small pirogues to a purpose built motor catamaran now take people out to see these mammals in the wild," vice-chairman Caroline Aimable told us, "and the benefits are filtering down to many hundreds of people".

Members of the association, which was formed to promote whale and dolphin watching as an addition to St. Luciaís tourism product, are concerned that the proposed dolphin encounter will detract significantly from their businesses.

"As you may know", explained Hackshaw, "any boat is a significant investment. But when you look at the additional costs such as maintenance, insurance, fuel, licences, training, salaries and supplies, all the operators, large and small, have invested heavily, and would not now like to see the benefits of this investment diminish."


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