Promotion of whale watching ecotourist activity as a model of sustainable economic development by the protection and conservation of cetacean populations and increasing their value as a natural heritage of the Macaronesia


The MARCET Project (MAC/1.1b/149), which ended in October 2019, was born with the aim of transferring and disseminating cutting-edge science and technology to promote the sustainable development of tourism activity associated with whale watching, by the creation and implementation of the MARCET Network, an interregional and multidisciplinary network that brings together specialized centers in monitoring and health surveillance of cetaceans, as well as operational oceanography, with the aim of integrating, harmonizing and optimizing knowledge, infrastructure and good practices in the region.

Thanks to the tool that the already created MARCET Network represents, the harmonization of work protocols and their integration to protect and conserve the cetacean populations of Macaronesia from a multidisciplinary point of view, as well as the knowledge acquired about the current situation of the tourism sector associated with the observation activity of these species in the region, this new initiative, the MARCET II Project, was born with the aim of increasing the value of mentioned activity as a model of sustainable economic development in the Macaronesian archipelagos (Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands and Cape Verde), thus promoting the ecotourism market niche that this activity entails, and, at the same time, establishing sustainability criteria applied to the resident cetacean species that serve as tourist attractions.

For this, this new Project is technically structured in three specific objectives: the first one (O.E.1), considered key for the establishment of ecological and environmental sustainability criteria, integrates the use of advanced operational oceanography techniques, as well as monitoring and health surveillance of resident cetaceans in marine protected areas and also of special interest for carrying out mentioned ecotourism activity in Macaronesia, using the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) as the main indicator species, to assess risk factors of anthropic origin linked to these marine areas.

The other two objectives (O.E.2 and O.E. 3) are aimed at enhancing the value of cetaceans as a natural heritage and as a differentiated economic resource of special importance for the associated ecotourism sector in the Macaronesian region. However, the achievement of this purpose is technically approached from two different perspectives, while O.E.2 focuses on disseminating information about the diversity of cetacean species existing in the region and raising awareness about the importance of protecting and conserving the marine areas where they reside, O.E.3, focuses directly on strengthening the business activity of cetacean observation as a model of sustainable economic development in the Macaronesian region.

In summary, the assessment of the impacts generated by human activities on specific marine areas by the ecological, health and oceanographic studies proposed in the MARCET II Project, will help to implement actions aimed at the protection and conservation of resident cetacean groups of these areas and, by extension, of the whole marine ecosystem on which they depend, but, above all, they will be useful for establishing ways to build a model of sustainable economic development that guarantees a quality of life for all species that inhabit the Macaronesian region, including the human one.