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Raising the bar for Ecotourism

Posted by on 26 October 2016 | Comments

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We are proud to announce that Ecotourism Australia board member and leading ecotourism industry spokesman, Peter Cochrane, has been elected to represent Oceania for a four-year term on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Governing Council.

Mr Cochrane was elected last month at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, with Andrew Bignell (New Zealand) and Ana Tiraa (Cook Islands) filling the other Oceania positions.

One of the major commitment outputs from the forum was identifying oceans as critical for conservation and sustainable livelihoods. Motions passed by the assembly included monitoring and management of unsustainable fishing, improving shark conservation, ending environmentally damaging industrial activities in protected areas, protected areas in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, global protection of coral reefs, marine debris, increasing marine protected area (MPA) coverage, ocean disposal of mining waste, whaling, Pacific region climate resilience, oceans and climate, offshore renewable energy and conservation and a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.

Another landmark decision emerging from the congress was a bold decision to improve standards for ecotourism worldwide.

“Ideally,” says Anna Spenceley, Chair of IUCN’s Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group, “ecotourism should be the most sustainable form of nature-based tourism. In protected areas, and other areas of high biodiversity, this form of travel should inspire visitors, conserve nature and culture, and benefit local people equitably.”

However, these tourism operations often create complex conservation challenges. Despite the alleged role ecotourism has in sustainable development, poverty eradication, and biodiversity protection, there is growing concern that ecotourism activities are failing to protect communities and natural areas due to commercial greenwashing and inadequate management, monitoring, and resources.

“Done poorly,” remarks Peter Cochrane, “it can be degrading in every sense of the word. So high standards of performance and behaviour are essential, not only to protect the environment but also to communicate and demonstrate to visitors, local communities and regulators that ecotourism is a mature, responsible and valued part of every economy.”

“I am delighted that IUCN will be collaborating on the development and adoption of high standards and associated certification to ensure that ecotourism operations and operators deliver what they promise, with positive impact”, concludes Mr Cochrane.

Through this initiative, together, IUCN Commissions, Members, and the Tourism and Protected Area Specialist Group will help the travel industry develop and manage ecotourism in a more responsible way.

Peter Cochrane - background: 

Peter Cochrane has over twenty years’ experience in senior executive leadership and governance roles in the public and private sectors. He consults on environment and sustainability issues, and is currently an adviser to the national State of Environment Report 2016. He is also a Director of Ecotourism Australia, the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute and Tangaroa Blue Foundation. He sits on the Steering Group of the Protected Area Learning and Research Collaboration. 

For more information:

Read the full motion adopted at the IUCN Congress here: https://portals.iucn.org/congress/motion/065

And visit the IUCN WCPA Website on tourism: https://www.iucn.org/protected-areas/world-commission-protected-areas/wcpa/what-we-do/tourism-tapas

Note about IUCN:

IUCN has over 1,300 Members, including 217 state and government agencies, 1, 066 NGOs and networks of over 16,000 experts worldwide from more than 160 countries. The IUCN World Conservation Congress meets once every four years to debate and adopt resolutions and recommendations on important conservation issues. These decisions guide IUCN’s policy and work program, as well as influence many organisations around the world.

Main image credit: Adventure Tours Australia, Exmouth, WA.

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