First SMART Operator Dolphin Watch & Nature Tours
SMART Operators, an acronym for 'Sustainable Marine Mammal Actions in Recreation and Tourism', lead by example by committing to activities that have minimal disturbance on whales, dolphins and seals. Commercial operators are able to achieve this by undertaking training around the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations, guarantee responsible advertising and undergo regular evaluations.
DOC Partnerships Ranger Wendy Sullivan for Waitohi/Picton Office was excited to have a company of Dolphin Watch & Nature Tours’ calibre as the first SMART Operator. “Dolphin Watch & Nature Tours already have a strong environmental ethos, and this is a way of recognising that.
“The public is inundated by images in the media and on the internet of boating behaviour that is actually detrimental to marine mammals. Most people think this behaviour is acceptable and don’t realise that they may be harming the very animals they enjoy viewing. SMART Operators will be able to help DOC get the correct message out there to reduce this impact.”
Dolphin Watch & Nature Tours Office Manager Tash Luxton said they have been supportive of the programme from the start. “We are super proud to be the first as it’s such a great initiative”.
Interest from other businesses in Marlborough is high and DOC is also aiming to provide the programme elsewhere in the country.
“It is our goal that the SMART Operator programme will become recognised and targeted by “green-tourists” - tourists who look for reassurance that their experience is eco-friendly and sustainable,” said Wendy Sullivan.