Açoriano Oriental
The future of whale watching depends on sustainable management

"If we do not protect cetaceans, there will be no whale watching in the future," warns Ali Bullock, president of the Ocean Azores Foundation, which advocates for the sustainable management of whale watching in the region.

Autor: Ana Carvalho Melo

The Ocean Azores Foundation advocates sustainable management of whale watching in the archipelago, pointing out that this is the only way for this activity to continue.

"We must not forget that if we do not protect cetaceans, there will be no whale watching in the future. That is why it is important to have sustainable whale watching and that it is managed in such a way that it remains sustainable for future generations," the president of the Ocean Azores Foundation, Ali Bullock, who chose the Azores to live in, told Açoriano Oriental.

Created in 2021, the Ocean Azores Foundation's mission is to contribute to the protection of cetaceans in the archipelago, a purpose in which the participation of Azoreans is considered crucial, to pressure decision-makers to prioritize the sustainability of the ocean.

"I am in favor of sustainable whale watching and the Azores are one of the best places in the world for whale watching; there are already regulations on how to do it.

However, we want to put some pressure on whale watching companies and the government, because you can always do more and better to protect cetaceans," he says.

The Foundation's first objective was to certify the region as a Whale Heritage Site. "In 2019, while researching sustainability, I realized that the Azores were not a Whale Heritage Site certified by the World Cetacean Alliance, which did not make sense to me. I contacted the World Cetacean Alliance and learned that there had been an initial contact in 2015 that had failed. So, in 2020, I started the process again, determined to finance this process," says Ali Bullock.

After contacting whale watching companies, researchers and government entities, Ali Bullock brought together a group of people passionate about the sea and marine life, such as researcher José Manuel Azevedo or businessman Miguel Cravinho, who created the Ocean Azores Foundation and led to the certification of the region as a Whale Heritage Site. In addition, the Ocean Azores Media House was created, a multimedia platform that aims to provide high-quality content for journalistic media, highlighting inspiring stories about the ocean and its creatures.

Now, the Ocean Azores Foundation's big plan for 2030 is to support projects to monitor whales, raise awareness among tourists about how to behave at sea, and study the impact of swimming with dolphins. "We want to fund research in order to discover the ways forward in sustainable cetacean watching," he explains.

With regard to the Foundation's funds, Ali points out that financing comes from private funds, such as income from the Solar Branco eco-hotel, the Baleia gin, or donations. He even recalls his experience of working with the WWF – World Wildlife Fund, stressing that he prefers to be separate from government entities, even though he collaborates with them.

In addition to Ali Bullock, the Foundation's board includes Miguel Sousa Lima, Miguel Cravinho, Luís Nunes, Joana Damião Melo, Fábio Sousa, Robb Medeiros and Nuno Raposo.

Born in London, Ali Bullock says he discovered the Azores in 2006, when he traveled to the island of Faial with his wife, Caroline. "I think it was during that trip to the Azores in 2006 that I fell in love with the sea," he says, explaining that the story of how the region evolved from whaling to whale watching fascinated him. However, it was not until years later, when Brexit occurred, that this couple, who had been living in Hong Kong, decided to choose São Miguel as their home.

A decision that led them to invest in businesses in the region, but also to contribute to the preservation of the history and heritage linked to whaling and whale watching, encouraging the mobilization of other people for this cause and, in this way, for lasting social and environmental changes, with a focus on protecting the ocean that surrounds the Azores archipelago.

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