Raising awareness of marine conservation issues is one of our core values here at WSORC. We aim to ensure that all community members on Utila are able to enjoy their marine biodiversity for generations to come. Our community work falls into two main categories:
Whale Shark Guideline Education
Although whale sharks are seen year round on Utila, they are vulnerable from anthropogenic threats that include irresponsible tourism. Whale sharks are shy creatures, and have been known to stop returning to areas with a high density of tourists, or areas that do not practice responsible encounters. Due to the high number of tourists who visit Utila to see a whale shark, tour operators are often under pressure to place as many people as possible in the water with them, which can have negative impacts on whale shark behaviour.
One of our main aims at WSORC is to ensure that all stakeholders on Utila are able to benefit from the presence of whale sharks for years to come. In order to do this, we believe that everyone involved in the whale shark tourism industry must practice responsible behaviour, including tourists, NGOs, local businesses, and the municipality. We aim to raise awareness of responsible whale shark tourism by educating stakeholders about the whale shark encounter guidelines. Our team regularly deliver presentations to local dive centres and hotels about whale sharks which encourage the use of the encounter guidelines. We are aiming to build a network of collaborators that will help us to monitor the effectiveness of the guidelines, help us to collect data on whale sharks, and ensure that whale shark tourism will be sustainable on Utila for many years.
Here at WSORC, we understand the value of educating youth about the values of preserving the environment. As the whale shark is vital to not only the economy of Utila but the culture as well, we aim to raise awareness of the importance of whale sharks to local school children.
Through this developing program, we are aim to create a group of young Utilians that are passionate about protecting the marine environment. By delivering presentations, going on field trips, and conducting research with this group, we hope to promote the next generation of marine conservationists on Utila. In turn, this group will go on to create materials that will raise awareness of marine conservation issues in their community.
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