Marine wildlife centre is now open
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 email@example.com, 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.