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Martinique (France)
Population: 391,000.
Land area: 1,060 sq km.
Tourist arrivals by air: 513,230 (+7.6% on prev. yr.)
Tourist arrivals by cruise ship: 386,835 (-10.2% on prev. yr.)
Total Tourist Expenditures: $397.0 million USD.
Tourism Budget: $7.5 million USD.
GDP at factor cost: $4,875.7 million USD.
1994 figures on whale watching: 100+ and minimal total revenues.
1998 figures on whale watching: Minimal.
Whale-watching ports (current or potential): Carbet, St.-Pierre, Fort-de-France, Le Prêcheur.
Land-based viewing sites: West coast, high vantage points.
Whale-watching potential: Outstanding.
(Figures above are latest figures for 1997, except as noted.)

Martinique, with its stylish croissant and café culture, is probably the most cosmopolitan society in the Eastern Caribbean. It has a much larger population than Dominica or any of its island neighbours to the south. In the Eastern Caribbean, only Guadeloupe (which includes the islands of St.-Martin and St.-Barths) slightly exceeds Martinique's numbers with a much larger land base. Still, despite its 391,000 people living in high density especially in and around Fort-de-France (with 100,000+ residents), Martinique offers considerable non-urban wonders including a sizeable rain forest, quiet fishing villages, farms full of tropical produce, clear waters, and wonderful treks around the volcanoes. Martinique is an overseas department of France, with elected representation in the French Parliament. The local economy depends on the French government which is responsible for more than half of the island's GNP. Agriculture, including sugar cane for rum, is the main industry but tourism is a huge contributor and has been the main growth sector for the past decade. The tourists, 80% of which are from France, spend considerably more per person in Martinique than they do in Guadeloupe, St.-Martin and St.-Barths. Although Guadeloupe and islands collectively receive 25% more tourists, they spend less money in total than for Martinique alone. Twenty-two miles wide and 50 miles long, Martinique is volcanic in origin and has a rugged mountainous feel to it. The indented coastline is dotted with numerous coves and bays, and even the rugged open Atlantic east coast has some sheltered spots around the towns of La Trinité and Le Robert. The known whale watching opportunities, however, are on the Caribbean lee side of the island. The diving opportunities off Martinique are varied all along the west coast. There is some criticism (e.g. Swanson and Garrett 1998) that some reefs are overfished and the coral is damaged, but the more than 12 diving companies on Martinique have no trouble finding good spots. The challenge now is to protect them all carefully, and awareness of the need to do this is high in Martinique. One diving centre is Saint-Pierre in the north, where the extraordinary volcanic eruption of Mt. Pelée in 1902 buried not only the entire town of 30,000 (there was only 1 survivor, a prisoner in solitary confinement in the local jail), but sunk and destroyed numerous sail boats that had been in the harbour that day. Of course, divers come for the wrecks here, but it also provides good access to see the sperm whales and spinner and pantropical spotted dolphins often within a mile or two of shore. Since the mid-1990s, from the north end of the island, from the coastal village of Le Prêcheur, fishermen sometimes take tourists to see the big herds of spinner and other dolphins that are there year-round and visit almost daily. Sometimes, sperm, pilot and humpback whales are seen as well. The best months are November to May with a peak in February to April when the waters tend to be calmer. As well, the same species are seen on diving trips which include cetaceans and were offered in the past by the Carib Scuba Club out of Carbet, south of St.-Pierre. However, recent enquiries to this diving company and others along the west coast of Martinique in April 1999 indicate that little whale or dolphin watching is currently taking place. One operator even said that the whales 'had left the area', and some residents insisted that there were no whales around. Researcher Michael Dougherty, working from a sailboat in the lee of Martinique for part of the winter of 1998-99 was similarly told that there were no whales to be found. Yet the sperm whales were there every day in relatively calm water about 4 miles off Fort de- France and easily accessible. Of course the trade winds do blow from time to time, but with a hydrophone to help find and listen to the whales and a reasonable-size whale watch boat, it would be easy to set up a good whale-watch business. Besides off Fort-de-France, Dougherty also found the whales in some concentration off St.-Pierre, though the trade winds tended to be stronger there. To be sure, whale watching has not developed into an industry as it has on Dominica. But from consistent reports from scientists, yachters and offshore fishermen, there is no doubt that the whales and dolphins are there. The same or similar opportunities for whale watch tourism exist on Martinique as on Dominica, particularly in the north of the country. Several other researchers including Watkins et al. (1982, 1985) and Notarbartolo di Sciara have turned up essentially the same diverse group of cetacean species as for Dominica. And Jefferson and Lynn's 1991 cetacean survey mentioned Martinique as one of three sites of cetacean concentration in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. It may be that because some of the best diving areas are close to shore, the diving companies encounter whales and dolphins less often. In any case, a scientific survey is planned for summer 1999 which will examine and report on the lee shore abundance and presence of cetaceans. There are certainly other ports that could be developed for whale or dolphin watching tours. The 100 fathom (200 meter) contour is within 2 miles (3 km) of the coast from Cap St.-Martin in the north almost to Fort-de-France, the capital, and the 900-fathom (1800 meter) line is as close as 6 miles (10 kms). In addition, in the southwest, Cap Salomon, and, in the far south, Pointe d'Enfer, offer the possibility of good lookouts, with departure ports nearby. The infrastructure for tourists is more than substantial, and could easily accommodate quite high numbers of whale watchers. A certain amount of whale and dolphin watching through the existing diving clubs would help spread the focus on marine resources. All that is required is the entrepreneur who has the will and the understanding of how to set up whale watching with a good international standard. A quick visit to Dominica would cut the learning curve considerably.

Acknowledgments: Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara (Tethys), Michael Dougherty, Lesley Sutty (AADN), Huges Hayot (Botanical Gardens, Anse Latouche), Michael Meteret (UCPA, St.-Pierre), Watkins and Moore 1982, Watkins et al 1985, Cathy Williamson (WDCS), Jefferson and Lynn 1994, CTO 1997.

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