Posted on: October 14, 2011

Two Pacific Whale Foundation Leaders Invited by UN Environment Programme to Speak at Caribbean Workshop on Sustainable Marine Mammal Watching 

The United Nations Environment Programme-Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP) has invited Pacific Whale Foundation President Gregory D. Kaufman and Chief Operating Officer Merrill Kaufman to join a group of eminent researchers and whalewatch experts as presenters at the upcoming “Workshop on Marine Mammal Watching in the Wider Caribbean Region,” to be held in Panama City, Panama, from October 19 -22.

On the opening day of the Workshop, Greg Kaufman will be presenting a keynote talk titled “Doing Well By Doing Good: How to Develop an Economical Viable and Ecologically Sound Whalewatch Operation.” He will be presenting details about Pacific Whale Foundation’s 31-year evolution from an early pioneer in educational whalewatching on Maui to an award-winning world leader in marine ecotourism and sustainable wildlife watching. Through his talk, he hopes to inspire participants to commit to high quality, environmentally friendly and responsible marine mammal tourism. 

Merrill Kaufman will deliver a keynote address on October 21 titled “Whalewatching as a Platform for Education and Discussion” and will be speaking about Pacific Whale Foundation’s commitment to providing high quality educational experiences based on sound science to the 300,000 guests that embark on the organization’s whalewatches and ocean cruises each year.

Greg Kaufman, Merrill Kaufman and Miguel Inguez, President of Fundacion Cethus Argentina, will also lead the workshop participants on a dolphin watch off Panama City to gain valuable field expertise on running an effective marine mammal watch. 

The workshop is offered through UNEP-CEP’s Protocol on Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife in the Wider Caribbean Region (SPAW) sub-program, with support from the National Environmental Authority of the Government of the Republic of Panama (ANAM). It is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, the French Marine Protected Area Agency, UNEP-CEP, the SPAW Regional Activity Centre, Humane Society International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, the World Society for the Protection of Animals and Pacific Whale Foundation.

According to the organizers, the workshop is the first attempt to bring together operators and managers from the region known as the “Wider Caribbean Region” (WCR) to discuss all aspects of marine mammal watching and collaborate on common standards. Workshop participants will be traveling from Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Suriname, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Belize, Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala and the United States to attend.

“Whalewatching is increasing rapidly in the Caribbean and Central America,” says Greg Kaufman. “During the past decade, whalewatching grew in the Caribbean and Central America grew at a rate of 12.8% per year, compared to 3.7% per year in other parts of the world. It generates nearly $54 million (USD) per year in these nations.”

“Pacific Whale Foundation is honored and pleased to be part of this effort to help nations in the Wider Caribbean Region develop sustainable and economically viable whalewatch operations,” says Greg Kaufman. “We believe strongly that whalewatching, when done properly, is a powerful educational tool that inspires participants to become advocates of marine conservation and wildlife protection.”

The workshop aims to encourage the development of a high-quality, responsible marine mammal tourism industry in the Wider Caribbean Region that conforms with best practices, including enhanced coordination and partnering among stakeholders and information sharing, along with a regime for the assessment of potential impacts to marine mammals and the marine environment. Overall, the workshop will assist participating governments in the region in their efforts to develop and improve marine mammal conservation policies and practices, including the five target areas of increased scientific knowledge; enhanced public understanding; protective measures; policy development and improvement of law and its application.

The event will include four days of hands-on training and discussions and includes presentations by eminent researchers and members of the whalewatch community. In addition to Pacific Whale Foundation’s Greg and Merrill Kaufman, the presenters include:

• Erich Hoyt, Research Fellow with WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, and leader of its Critical Habitat / Marine Protected Areas Programme. He is the author of 18 books, published in 15 languages, and has written more than 500 articles, chapters, reports and papers.

• Carole Carlson, Ph.D., Director of Research and Education for the Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch, an Adjunct Scientist at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and a Research Associate at College of the Atlantic. 

• Miguel A. Iñíguez, President and Founder of Fundación Cethus, Argentina.

• Jooke Robbins, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

• Naomi Rose, Ph.D., Senior Scientist for Humane Society International (HSI).

“The workshop agenda includes time for participants to create an overarching code of conduct for observing marine mammals in the Wider Caribbean Region,” says Greg Kaufman. “The organizers want to help attendees assess problems and needs, and identify opportunities for improving their existing marine mammal watching operations.”

Greg Kaufman’s presentation will detail how Caribbean whale and dolphin watch operators can easily adopt environmentally friendly and cost-effective “Best Green Business Practices” in key areas of their operations. The operational benefits of supporting cetacean research, environmental education opportunities and conservation initiatives will also be described.

Doing Well While Doing Good 

Over 31 years, Pacific Whale Foundation has developed a fleet of eight state-of-the-art environmentally friendly vessels, purpose-built for wildlife watching in Hawaii. The vessels are powered with low emission, low noise, and high performance engines and are equipped with Whale Protection Devices. All vessels are fitted with low-flow toilets, water saving fixtures, and clean oil filtration systems. Pacific Whale Foundation also operates its own pump-out truck (powered by 100% biodiesel), uses recycled and recyclable products and supplies, and sources all food products locally.

All profits raised from the whalewatches and ocean cruises support Pacific Whale Foundation’s research, education and conservation programs to protect marine wildlife and the oceans. 

“We employ green business practices in all phases of our business from office operations, to paperless marketing, to guest services, to fuel type, to staff training,” says Kaufman. “In 31 years, we have attracted more than 3 million guests to our cruises; many of them choose us because we offer eco-friendly, sustainable and responsible ocean tours.”

Pacific Whale Foundation was awarded the United States Coast Guard's highest environmental award, the William M. Benkert Marine Environmental Bronze Award for Excellence for outstanding achievements in marine environmental protection, in December 2010.

Pacific Whale Foundation was also voted as “Maui’s Best Environmental Attraction” in a 2011 Maui News poll.

About the Workshop Organizers:

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, each coastal country is responsible for managing the marine environment of its territory. In the Caribbean, there are a large number of countries in a relatively small area, with interconnected marine ecosystems. To protect their marine resources, 23 Caribbean nations adopted “The Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR),” also known as The Cartagena Convention, in 1983, and implemented it in 1986. It is a legally binding environmental treaty for the region. The governments of the region also adopted in 1990, the “Protocol on Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife “(SPAW), and in 1991, the lists of species requiring protection under SPAW. The Protocol became international law in 2000, according to a 2008 SPAW fact sheet. The workshop on marine mammal watching was identified as one of the priorities in the “Action Plan for the Conservation of Marine Mammals in the Wider Caribbean Region,” which was adopted in 2008. A scientific steering committee is organizing the workshop in accordance with the framework of the SPAW Protocol with the support of its SPAW Regional Activity Center (SPAW RAC).

About Greg Kaufman:

Gregory D. Kaufman is the founder and president of Pacific Whale Foundation and author of three books, and numerous articles in scientific and popular publications. A pioneer in noninvasive humpback whale research in the mid-1970s, Greg founded Pacific Whale Foundation in 1980, and committed his new organization to educating the public, from a scientific perspective, about whales and their ocean habitat. Greg is a world leader in addressing whale protection issues, and has pioneered responsible whale- and dolphin-watching programs throughout the Pacific. He is widely acknowledged as an innovator and leader in marine ecotourism. Greg also is an Invited Participant to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee and is a contributor to the subcommittees on Whalewatching, Southern Hemisphere Whales and Bycatch.

About Merrill Kaufman:
Merrill is the Chief Operations Officer of Pacific Whale Foundation in Maui, Hawaii. She oversees all aspects of the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation, an international NGO with projects in Hawaii, Australia, Tonga and Ecuador. The mission of Pacific Whale Foundation is to protect our oceans through science and advocacy. 

Educating the public about the marine environment from a scientific perspective is at the heart of Pacific Whale Foundation’s mission, and it is also Merrill Kaufman’s great passion. Through the whalewatches and other ocean ecotours offered by Pacific Whale Foundation, Merrill and her team are given the opportunity to educate 300,000 guests each year about whales, the ocean and the value of conservation. 

Merrill supervises Pacific Whale Foundation’s education team, which includes more than 100 naturalists and the staff that are responsible for developing vessel programs, ensuring vessel safety and providing for naturalist training.

She has been involved in whale and dolphin conservation and education programs in formal and informal settings for more than 20 years. During that time, she has also developed marine mammal curriculum for children for pre-school through high school, conducted educator workshops and worked actively with management agencies and public interest groups to promote innovative and effective frameworks for whale and dolphin interpretation programs.

Her current professional efforts include the development of Eco-U, an interpretative training center focused on the professional development of vessel captains, naturalists, educators and crew, including field testing a model for professional development of the marine naturalist as the conduit of a mission merging sound science with public advocacy. 

Merrill obtained her BSc. in Education and her Montessori Early Childhood Credential from Chaminade University (Honolulu, Hawaii) She served as a member to the Hawaii Ecotourism Association Certification Advisory Board tasked with developing ecotourism certification guidelines and scoring systems for ecotour operators in Hawaii. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide by the National Association of Interpretation.

To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation, please visit