After countless hours behind the computer, bountiful snacks, and a few stress relieving walks with my dog, I am proud to announce WDC and our partners officially launched our Spout Spotters: Boater Safety Around Whales online course!
This course has been in the works since 2016 when my colleague at Audubon Society of Rhode Island was at a Safety at Sea seminar. Boaters take this course to learn the rules of the road and how to keep yourself and others safe while out on the water, just like you would when learning to drive a car. However, my colleague noticed there was a big (pun intended) part missing - whales!
A quick google search will show horrific stories of collisions and close calls between boats and whales. These stories show us the impact that collisions have not only on whales, but especially for the humans who are involved. 95% of recreational boats are less than 26 feet in length – about half the length of a humpback whale. We quickly realized that our outreach efforts needed to combine two messages: whale safety AND human safety.
Become a Spout Spotter!
As we all know by now, kids and adults alike had to switch to online learning platforms during the pandemic. That led to our lightbulb moment - we could make our own online boater course specific to safe operations around whales!
While I have spent a lot of time at sea, I’ve never owned a boat and admittedly have very little operating experience myself so it was critical for me to branch out from my whale conservation community and start immersing myself in the boating community to understand how to best communicate with boaters.
First up - networking. I had many opportunities to chat directly with boaters before 2020 but the pandemic put that on hold. Finally, in March 2022 I was able to attend the International Boating and Water Safety Summit . It was my first in-person conference since 2019 and I can’t tell you how great it was to be in a room with people again! I made new connections and reconnected with a few colleagues, and the enthusiasm they shared for our course reaffirmed that it is a helpful and valuable resource.
The second critical piece was to involve experienced boaters in the creation of the course to make sure the content was useful and impactful to those in the boating community. In early 2022, we gathered a focus group of power boaters and sailors from six different states. We met to introduce the project, asked them to review the course independently, and then reconvened after they went through the course where they provided feedback with a third-party facilitator. This focus group was so helpful in showing us where and how we could improve the course. If you are reading this and were a part of it - THANK YOU!
After working through our fair share of trials and tribulations –late nights of editing, technical glitches, and hundreds of emails among our See A Spout partners, I am so proud to launch Spout Spotters: Boater Safety Around Whales online course.
Boaters in the US Atlantic can take this self-guided, 30 minute course to learn everything they need to know to keep themselves, their boats, and whales safe. Course takers will learn the best practices to keep yourself and whales safe while sharing the sea, and how to take an active role in supporting conservation efforts for the marine life that is vital for the health of our planet .
If you are a boater, I invite you to take the course and if you know any boaters in your network, please share the course with them so they can join the community of responsible boaters who are prepared to boat safely around whales!
I am excited to say I am a Spout Spotter - come join me!
As an extra bonus, the first 300 participants to complete the course will receive a free pair of polarized sunglasses, compliments of WDC and made possible by the generosity of the Sheehan Family Companies.
I also want to give a special shout out to my partners in this program - NOAA Fisheries, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Thank you for helping me through this ongoing project and I can’t wait to see the positive impact it has!