On Friday, we discussed eco-tourism, including the benefits of helping people connect with the environment and animals, but that regulations must be in place (and enforced) to minimize the negative impacts. We reflected on how we have behaved as eco-tourists during this course. We realized how we all need to be reminded about our impacts; we are all interested and aware (and interested in becoming more aware), so as a group we are already interested in reducing our impact. For others, who may not be conscious of the environment while they travel, getting them to care may be more difficult. In addition to the environment, it is important to consider the impact on the local community and how your tourism can, and should, benefit them. We looked to the scientific literature and learned about short and long-term effects of dolphin watching boats on certain bottlenose dolphins. We can use research to inform policy makers so that regulations are scientifically informed.
Then it was time to get out of the classroom for a bit and we headed to the Bimini Museum. We divided into three teams and went on a fact-finding mission. It is a quaint little museum, but it really is filled with a lot of local history. Some of the signs were in need of repair, but it was very informative. Next it was lunch – baked potatoes! – then a 1400 boat departure.
Our boat trip began with bottlenose dolphins. But, we decided to only observe them for a couple of minutes as we knew boats had been observing them all morning. We could tell just from the boat that there was at least one individual that we had already seen. Next, we made our way to the snorkel stop…the boat began to slow and we thought, “Oh, why are we stopping in the middle of nowhere?” It was an “ocean donut” – The Hesperus. This old barge sits on the sea floor with tons of fish! This artificial reef was a popular spot for barracuda and a few lionfish. At the edges of the sand, we saw a nurse shark and more southern stingrays. There were ocean triggerfish and of course, the wreck itself. We returned to the boat and headed home, keeping our eyes out for dolphins on the way. Aaaaand….off Bimini, we saw another group of bottlenose! This group of at least 11 bottlenose were busy traveling north. We didn’t get in the water, but hey, that’s research. We still got photo-ID photos and saw chin-slapping and side breaching. And after so many dolphins all course, we’re all happy!
Back on shore, we enjoyed (really, enjoyed) an authentic Bahamian dinner cooked by Ms. Stephie. Baked chicken, mac n cheese and peas n rice…mmmmm. We ended the night with a fun film, “We Bought A Zoo.” We should have bought tissues for this emotional rollercoaster, but the challenges surrounding animals in captivity and the message of enriching the lives of those animals fit well with previous course discussion.
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“Cetacean Nation” (SHU 2014)