Marine wildlife cen­tre is now open

The Oban Times - - News -

A NEW marine wildlife vis­i­tor cen­tre has been opened in Tober mory.

Run on the Isle of Mull by con­ser­va­tion char­ity He­bridean Whale and Dol­phin Trust (HWDT), the cen­tre’s re­mit is to strengthen con­ser­va­tion ac­tion for whales, dol­phins and por­poises, and to de­velop the ap­peal of the He­brides as a wildlife tourism hotspot.

The He­bridean Whale and Dol­phin Cen­tre on Tober­mory’s har­bour front was for­mally opened this month and will be a learn­ing, train­ing and vol­un­teer­ing hub, as well as pro­vid­ing a ma­jor at­trac­tion for vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies and chil­dren.

The build­ing’s trans­for­ma­tion has been funded as part of a grant of al­most £220,000 from the UK govern­ment’s Coastal Com­mu­ni­ties Fund. The fully ren­o­vated and ex­tended cen­tre fea­tures in­for­ma­tion on sight­ings of cetaceans – the col­lec­tive name for whales, dol­phins and por­poises – in­ter­ac­tive ex­hi­bi­tions, dis­plays and a gift shop.

‘Our new cen­tre aims to put Mull and the He­brides even more firmly on the map as a key des­ti­na­tion to en­joy and dis­cover world- class marine bio­di­ver­sity, which, in turn, will boost con­ser­va­tion and could bring sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits to the re­gion,’ said Ali­son Lo­max, a di­rec­tor of HWDT.

The cen­tre was launched with a cel­e­bra­tory event at­tended by dozens of guests from across the UK. The trust’s pre­vi­ous shop and vis­i­tor cen­tre at­tracted 26,000 peo­ple in 2015 – a fig­ure that the HWDT hopes will rise sig­nif­i­cantly.

With lo­cal wa­ter be­ing among Europe’s most im­por­tant cetacean habi­tats, the char­ity be­lieves de­vel­op­ing sus­tain­able marine wildlife eco-tourism is a ma­jor op­por­tu­nity, as demon­strated by the ben­e­fits of white-tailed ea­gles to the lo­cal economies of Mull and Skye.

So far, 24 of the world’s es­ti­mated 92 cetacean species have been recorded in the re­gion, and new dis­cov­er­ies about these pop­u­la­tions are reg­u­larly dis­cov­ered.

The Coastal Com­mu­ni­ties Fund has also en­abled the trust to carry out an in­no­va­tive Sea Change project across the He­brides over the past two years, to strengthen peo­ple’s con­nec­tions to the sea in re­mote is­land com­mu­ni­ties. Sea Change has been car­ried out on Mull, Coll and Tiree, Is­lay and Jura, Colon­say, Barra, Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna, Mal­laig and Ari­saig, North and South Uist, Har­ris, Lewis, Gair­loch and Skye.

Vol­un­teers are be­ing re­cruited for the trust’s 2016 ex­pe­di­tions on­board re­search ves­sel Sil­urian. For de­tails, email vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor@hwdt.org, call 01688 302620 or visit www.hwdt.org.

Left to right are Ali­son Lo­max, a di­rec­tor of the He­bridean Whale and Dol­phin Trust, and vol­un­teers Lynsey Bland and Sam Udale-Smith.

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