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Giant step for ocean conservation

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Cape Town - Organisations from around the world, including Cape Town-based Coastal and Marine Eco-Tourism Corporation (Comet), have come together to form the World Cetacean Alliance in a bid to protect whales and dolphins.

The alliance is starting with two urgent missions: saving the world’s last 55 Maui dolphins and removing killer whales from captivity in water park shows.

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Hector's Dolphin (Hector) - Andreas Maecker

Honorary president Jean-Michel Cousteau said: “Without collaboration we will achieve nothing more than a drop in the ocean.”

Cousteau has campaigned for ocean conservation for decades.

“The World Cetacean Alliance is a unique opportunity to combine our collective energy, knowledge and expertise in order to protect whales, dolphins and their habitats.”

The alliance includes charities, whale and dolphin-watching businesses and individual advocates from 11 countries.

Comet director Bruce See said that conservation efforts had always been disjointed and unco-ordinated across the globe – until now.

“The World Cetacean Alliance is our best chance in years to change all that,” he said.

Along the South African coast, the biggest threat to whales and dolphins are tour boat operators who do not play by the rules.

“There are more illegal boat-based whale watching operators than legal ones,” See said. “On some areas of the coastline where tourism is more competitive, these animals are harassed repeatedly.”

Whales are also threatened by pollution, entanglement in discarded fishing nets, and noise pollution from the heavy shipping lanes.

“The seismic activities of oil companies doing offshore oil exploration is also known to have an effect, possibly leading to mass strandings along our beaches,” See said.

Without a dedicated marine control coastguard or effective land-based monitoring, it is difficult to keep tabs on damaging activities, according to See. “It has become open season again for exploitation of the rich resources along the coastline.”

The way forward for Comet and the World Cetacean Alliance was to provide education for coastal communities, who were hit hard by depleted oceans.

“Already many of the local coastal fishing communities are destitute because the fish have run out.

“Unless something is done, it is only going to get worse,” See said.

“Comet is working to provide education and training to some of these rural coastal communities.”

See hopes to have community education centres in action in the Northern and Western Cape by the middle of next year – just in time for whale season. - Cape Argus

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