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Protecting the Southern Bottlenose Dolphins of Jeju, “Ecosystem Guardians” in Action

Date. 2022-05-04
Hit. 484

- Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries operates community monitoring groups to check on the implementation of observation guidelines for dolphin tour boats -

 

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF; Minister MOON, Seong-Hyeok) announced the official start of the “Ecosystem Guardians” program to safeguard the marine protected species Southern bottlenose dolphins and their habitat.

 

Dolphin tours have recently become one of the popular sightseeing activities on Jeju Island, where tourists can observe Southern bottlenose dolphins in the wild, aboard tour boats in the waters of Jeju. However, there have been continual concerns over the potential threats posed by such activities on the safety of the dolphins and the protection of their habitat, including scenarios where the tour boats make too close an approach to the dolphins.

 

In response, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries held discussion meetings with boat tour companies, consolidated the opinions of community groups and experts, as well as improved and revised the ‘Southern bottlenose dolphin observation guide’ (published in 2017) last year. Furthermore, in addition to providing regular training sessions for boat tour companies, the Ministry has agreed to implement protective measures for the Southern bottlenose dolphins, including the posting or installation of observation guidelines within boat interiors and the making of announcements during boat operations.

 

The Ministry continues to work towards the preservation of the dolphins while ensuring harmony and coexistence with local eco-tourism, as can be witnessed through the implementation of the pilot ‘Southern bottlenose dolphin guardians’ program, featuring participation by community residents and experts on ecology and tourism to ensure that the boat tour companies comply with the observation guidelines.

 

To strengthen last’s year pilot ecosystem guardian program, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries plans to increase the guardian headcount from 5 to 10 this year and to extend the operations of the monitoring group to cover the entire year. To this end, a monitoring group has been formed with experts in ecology and tourism recommended by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and civic organizations as well as local residents. Starting with preliminary training on monitoring methodology, full-fledged inspections are expected to officially commence in due time.

 

The monitoring results will be shared with boat tour companies via meetings, while requiring actions for immediate improvement. In particular, a revision* to the Conservation and Management of Marine Ecosystems Act has been proposed to raise the effectiveness of the Southern bottlenose dolphin observation guidelines. Through the revision of the Act, the observation guidelines, currently operated as discretionary self-guided recommendations, will become legally binding.

 

Director General Yoon Hyun-Soo, the Head of the Marine Environment Policy Bureau at the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, stressed that the Ministry will “continue efforts aimed at creating the foundation for the coexistence of Southern bottlenose dolphins and regional communities in Jeju” while explaining that “the population of the Southern bottlenose dolphins inhabiting the coasts of Jeju is small, yet they are invaluable marine animals that have looked after the Jeju oceans for a very long time.”

 

Southern bottlenose dolphins are marine mammals, observed all year around along the coasts of Jeju, with their current population estimated at about 110 dolphins. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries continues with efforts to protect them since their designation as marine protected species in 2012.