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CARE certification program encourages sustainable tourism on the Georgia coast

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:49 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 11:43 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Kayak, paddleboard and boat tours are extremely popular along our coast, so a new program is working to make sure ecotour guides know the best practices to protect our wildlife while showing visitors Georgia’s coastal habitats.

The Coastal Awareness and Responsible Ecotourism (CARE) certification program is making sure that ecotour companies know the best practices when it comes to water-based tourism activities. This program is the first of its kind in the state and its main goal is to help conserve our critical natural resources.

The program launched in collaboration with Manomet and it’s funded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.. WTOC took a ride around Wassaw Island Monday to talk about the five week program. It focuses on recreational use and potential disturbance of coastal habitat, coastal ecology, human connections to the coast and more.

Marine Educator at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Katie Higgins, says Georgia’s beaches provide a vital habitat where animals, like shorebirds, feed and rest during long migrations. Higgins says if ecotour guides know more about the coast and its wildlife they can teach others how to protect these animals.

“Folks who are out here accessing barrier islands and shell rakes and some of the areas that we’re in, having them be more aware of what is out here and how shorebirds use them will help keep them from being too disturbed. At least that’s the hope,” said Katie Higgins, Marine Educator, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and Co-Creator of CARE Program.

Right now, Higgins says there are 17 tour guides certified from Savannah all the way to Brunswick. If you or someone you know is interested in getting certified, click here for more information.

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