The purpose of this empirical case-based paper is to understand how the implementation of a nature tour guiding certification program impacted the human-environmental bond of stakeholders in a fishing community. Specific phenomena such as how guides relate to fishing and how this translates into cultural well-being are identified as components of the human/environmental dichotomy. The certification program was designed to educate participants about natural resource use and tourism as a business. Fishing was a particular focus because a majority of those who earned certification worked as fishing guides in this coastal region. This paper takes a multi-stakeholder approach to examine changes to the human-environmental bond that ensued when the program was implemented.
Research was conducted using qualitative methodologies in the naturalist paradigm. This included participant observation and semi-structured interviews. The semi-structured interviews took place with certified guides, un-certified guides, and DMOs (e.g. Chambers of Commerce and Convention and Visitor Bureaus). Finally, in preparation for this study a critical discourse analysis (CDA) was conducted of all existing certification programs for nature tour guides in North America.
The findings of the study point toward stakeholder groups forwarding their ideas of the human-nature bond but not sharing meanings of contested terms. The importance of this research is two-fold. First, there is the applied importance. The findings provide insight to the development of guide certification programs. Other certification programs can learn from this. Secondly, theoretical understandings such as ecological modernization are approached. There is a marked overlap between these primary findings. For example, nature is being commodified within the WGC program with the idea that market-based conservation can limit negative impacts of tourism and fishing on the natural resources.
Evidence leading me to the aforemtioned conclusions include: 1. My interviews with the DMOs evidenced a consistent focus on tangible indicators they can use to showcase their results. These indicators are primarily economic. Nature was not a focus of their answers to even the most environmentally-focused questions. 2. Fishing guides also forwarded a lack of environmental or natural world concern. Their focus remains on short-term profits and some regional gossip. They do not recognize a value in the education provided by the WGC program. This is primarily due to their short-term approach to their guiding business in the region and their economic focus.