Tobago boat operator achieves the international Blue Flag award
Posted Nov 05, 2021
On September 17, 2021 the International Blue Flag Jury has granted the prestigious Blue Flag award to the Tobago tourism boat operator Top Catch Charters. Top Catch Charters has now entered an elite class of Blue Flag awarded boat operators, and is currently the only Blue Flag awarded boat in the English speaking Caribbean.
The achievement of this renowned environmental award has meant that Top Catch Charters operations has complied with standards pertaining to environmental management, environmental education and information, safety and services, social responsibility and responsible operation around wildlife. The staff of Top Catch Charters has demonstrated their ongoing commitment to adhering to international best practices as it relates to providing quality service and safety standards to their guests whilst celebrating and protecting the natural environment.
Ms Shivonne Peters, Manager of Top Catch Charters explains what it means for the business to achieve this award.
“The Blue Flag award for us represents the fulfillment of our goal to provide eco-friendly tours to our customers and transform Tobago’s tourism product. For us at Top Catch Charters, we began our journey with the concept of a sustainable business model; one that ensured we minimized our environmental impact. By developing simple strategies such as saying no to single use plastics and providing alternatives through locally sourced materials such as calabash and bamboo, we truly believed we could encourage our clients to practice sustainable habits, well beyond the duration of our tours. We certainly hope that this is the start of a movement in the tour industry, not only in Tobago but in Trinidad and Tobago. Ultimately, it proves for us and says to the world that sustainable tourism is possible in Tobago as we can successfully balance economic activities with environmental conservation."
Top Catch Charters was one of four tourism boat operators that were recipients of grant funding by the UNDP Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SPG) Green Innovator Challenge in Trinidad and Tobago. As a beneficiary of the grant Top Catch Charters received the necessary assistance and services to apply for the Blue Flag program and ultimately accede to the necessary criteria to achieve the prestigious environmental award. Dr. Sharda Mahabir, National Coordinator GEF SGP UNDP, also extended her congratulations and expectations:
“GEF SGP is pleased to support Green T&T in their efforts to strengthen tourism by certifying boat operators under Blue Flag. This certification will put our beautiful sister isle on the map in terms of initiatives in support of the Blue Economy. We look forward to positive outcomes and benefits coming out of this project and more GEF SGP projects on the sister isle.”
The National Operator for the Blue Flag program Green T&T worked alongside Top Catch Charters and three other tourism boat operators as part of the project proposal 'Reducing environmental footprint and improving eco-friendly Blue Economy by supporting Blue Flag certification for four small tour boat operators in Tobago.' Top Catch Charters was the first to submit their application to the Blue Flag National Jury, which was indicative of their steady commitment to preserving their natural environment and reducing their operations environmental footprint, inspite of the challenges posed by the COVID 19 pandemic. Joanna Moses-Wothke, CEO of Green T&T further elaborates what this achievement means for Top Catch and local tourism in general.
“This is a very significant accomplishment and there is a lot to celebrate. This is the first and only Blue Flag certified Boat Operator in the English-speaking Caribbean, the only Blue Flag certified site in Trinidad and Tobago and the first and only Blue Flag certified site for Tobago. Top Catch Charters is trailblazing when it comes to environmental performance for tour boat operators, especially on the heels of the Travel Industry Club (TIC) Destination Awards in which Tobago was given 2nd place. We at Green T&T are very proud to be a part of the ground-breaking achievements and we look forward to our continued work with Top Catch Charters and other tour boat operators and beaches on the island.”
The Blue Flag programme is owned and managed by the international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education) based in Denmark. The program has been operating in Europe since 1987 and has become a highly respected and recognised award, working to bring together the tourism and environmental sectors at local, regional and national levels to ensure sustainable tourism. Currently, the Blue Flag is flying at over 4,600 sites in 47 countries and has over 80 blue flag awarded boat operators worldwide. Mr Narendra Ramgulam, Director of Product Development & Destination Management, Tobago Tourism Agency Limited describes the significance of this achievement to the destination of Tobago.
“This Blue Flag award for Top Catch showcases the strong environmental work that has gone into setting Tobago apart from its regional competitors. Last year, destination Tobago achieved pilot status for 3 Blue Flag beaches, earlier this year we followed up with aligning our accommodation sector to the Green Key certification, and now our tourism boat operators like Top Catch are on board to fulfill the destination's strategic sustainable advantage.
This is the first private-public partnership of its kind on the island, and its success will act as a catalyst for other tourism operators to come on board so we can transform Tobago together. There is still a long road ahead in achieving our sustainability goals for Tobago, our residents and our visitors, and we will continue to foster the stakeholder partnerships necessary to ensure continuity, rejuvenation, revitalization and success as we move the destination forward together.
While we enjoy the success of our first official Blue Flag designation for Tobago, we at the Tobago Tourism Agency Limited are proud of Top Catch for leading the way and fulfilling the criteria set out by the Foundation for Environmental Education to make this possible. We are also grateful to our partners at Green T&T for their support which made this a reality."
As a foundational principle of FEE for the roll-out of the Blue Flag program in Trinidad and Tobago, a National Jury comprised of local stakeholders, discerns on all Blue Flag applications. Upon approval by the National Jury the application is forwarded to the International Jury for final vetting and approval. In Trinidad and Tobago the National Jury comprises of representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation (Tobago House of Assembly), Tobago representative of the Trinidad and Tobago Life Saving Society, Community Development Enterprise Development and Labour, Solid Waste Management Company Limited, Department of Modern Studies, Signal Hill Secondary School, Environmental Management Authority, Division of Health Wellness and Family Development- Tobago House of Assembly, Yacht Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago and Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd.