Certification programs enhance stewardship knowledge and practices of Alabama nature-based tourism
Both residents and visitors to the Gulf Coast are increasingly interested in experiencing the natural history and culture of coastal and ocean environments. Wildlife viewing activities hold tremendous potential for stimulating local economies while celebrating natural wonders and cultural heritage. To be successful, nature-tourism experiences should provide quality opportunities to engage the public with natural resources in ways that lead to greater understanding and appreciation, while protecting and preserving the wildlife populations they are viewing.
The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Outreach Program offered professional development programs and certification opportunities for nature-based tourism businesses. The Coastal Nature Guide Certification Program helped nature-tourism professionals build and enhance the skills needed to adopt and promote sustainable wildlife viewing practices that help preserve healthy and resilient coasts along the Gulf of Mexico. The Certified Fishers Invested in Sustainable Harvest (CFISH) program, which was based on the Coastal Nature Guide Program, provided training on the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico, sustainable fishing practices, applicable resource laws and regulations, promotion of good stewardship practices, and responsible advertising.
Six coastal nature guides and 24 captains and deckhands in Alabama received professional development training and received certification through the Coastal Nature Guide Certification and Certified Fishers Invested in Sustainable Harvest (CFISH) programs. These individuals are now better prepared to incorporate stewardship principles and practices into their tours and business operations.
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant nature tourism specialists provided professional development training and certification to nature guides and charter fishermen to enhance stewardship of coastal resources. (2014)