A crisp, autumnal weekend a few weeks hence will find us on the other side of the Atlantic. On the edge of the English Channel no less, where the beaches are much bolder than their soft Florida cousins, and the shoreline is, well, stony*. We’ll be joining one of the largest gatherings of whale and dolphin enthusiasts anywhere on the globe, meeting to celebrate cetaceans – it’s Planet Whale’s WhaleFest 2012!
Planet Whale is actually a non-profit organization, based in East Sussex in the UK and staffed by enthusiasts with the goal of uniting whale watching companies and whale-loving tourists, in ethical whale based tourism around the world. Ian Rowlands and Ian Walker started the effort several years ago after successful careers in tourism, writing and marine charity work.
Planet Whale is the host of WhaleFest, an ambitious and international conference/get together/ festival now in its second year. Last year, 2,500+ people were estimated in attendance with more than 8,000 expected this year! Held over the weekend of October 27-28 there are more than 75 whale watching operators, NGO’s and other informative booths and tables, videos, talks, games, activities and lots of meet and greet with fellow whale fans.
But that’s not all; for 2 days preceding WhaleFest Oct. 25-26), concurrent conference sessions are running, also in Brighton. The Whale Watch Operators Conference, in which Conscious Breath Adventures is participating, will bring together more than a dozen organizations from around the world. We are please to participate as a full member of the 2012 Whale Watch Operator’s Partnership and have provided a case study, presentation and video towards a strengthening of the ethical aspects of the industry. At the conference Capt Gene will be presenting on “citizen science” and how it can benefit both the whales and the operators. Other interesting sessions include a discussion of the Whale Watch Operator’s Partnership and the way forward, the value and feasibility of a global whale watch accreditation and more.
Part of the Whale Watch Operators Conference is the first annual Responsible Whale Watch Awards and we’re proud to be in the running for an award in recognition of our ethical approach. Our nomination is based on consistently receiving the highest marks – five stars – across the board on Planet Whale’s review system and whether we place in the competition or not, we’ll continue the conscious practices that elicit those reviews.
Meanwhile, over at the World Whale Conference, NGO’s and non profits like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Sea Shepherd UK, the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) and others will be covering ideas and ways for organizations, operators and the public to best implement a global campaign to protect cetaceans. Noted speakers include Mark Carwardine, Erich Hoyte and Dr. Roger Payne (by video link).
After their respective conferences, representatives from both whalewatching and whale conservation groups will join together at WhaleFest over the weekend.
And the action does not end there! Drawing on the momentum and spirit that surrounds WhaleFest, PlanetWhale has launched Save the Whales Reloaded, a campaign to help designate significant areas in need of protection around the world using public participation through simple online mapping software.
We’ll be reporting on the festivities as they take place and would love to see any guests and friends that might be in attendance as an exhibitor or whale-loving visitor. Good luck to organizers and attendees and we’ll see you in Brighton!
* I have fond childhood memories of Brighton’s beach and in the course of writing this article found out there are approximately 614,600,000 pebbles there. Wow. I also liked this peaceful recording of the sea crashing over said pebbles. Really looking forward to visiting again!