We are proud to introduce “Breathing Andenes” – Andenes is getting ready to share its Natural Heritage Resources with visitors from around the globe through a project supported by Innovasjon Norge.
Andenes is a small town located in the Vesterålen archipelago in northern Norway, a pristine area with an important marine and terrestrial biodiversity and natural heritage resources. The local wildlife, landscape, and natural areas, together with peculiar natural events, such as the midnight sun and the northern lights, make Andenes a hotspot for ecotourism year-round. Andenes is famous for its whale watching activity focused on sperm whales, as it is one of the only three spots in the world where adult male sperm whales can be seen. Hvalsafari AS was the first whale watching company in Norway and it has been offering tours to see sperm whales and other whale species for over 30 years. Since the beginning, the company has been committed to supporting scientific research and today holds one of the largest datasets on sperm whales in the world.

Andenes, Northern Norway.

Even thought it has a great potential, the area is relatively isolated, the current offer overlooks some of these natural resources, and tourists rarely stay for more than one day. In order to expand the visitors’ experience, “Breathing Andenes” will design and offer new tourism products and services based on scientific knowledge, and will do so by identifying the key elements to diversify the marine wildlife tourism experience in Andenes. The objectives of “Breathing Andenes” are to minimise animal disturbance, develop a scientific tourism programme integrating research activities into the tourism experience, promote the development of local communities involving them in tourism products, and bring to light the local natural heritage through a territorial marketing strategy.

“Breathing Andenes” will run through 2021 and 2022 and will be led by Dr Mel Cosentino under the direction of Dr Raquel de la Cruz-Modino, in collaboration with Gabriela Bellazzi. Mel is a biologist and ecologist, and her research interests are focused on different aspects of whale, dolphin and porpoise conservation, and she has a good track record of publishing in specialised scientific journals. Mel has extensive knowledge on the topic of whale watching impact, as she carried out her Master’s thesis in Andenes, when she investigated the impact of the whale watching activity on sperm whales. She also led the establishment of the land-based observation platform in the local lighthouse in 2011.

Raquel is an Assistant Professor at the University of La Laguna (ULL, Spain), trained in Heritage and Resource Management (MSc), Tourism Entrepreneur Management (MSc), and fisheries, tourism and Marine Protected Areas analysis (PhD), with professional experience in the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean Spanish coasts. She currently works in different international projects related to marine governance and sustainable tourism development. Raquel’s research projects results are published in specialised scientific journals as well as other publications directed to the general public.
Gabriela is a marketing digital expert, with almost two decades of experience developing products and services related to whale watching tourism in Puerto Pirámides (Peninsula Valdes, Argentina). Peninsula Valdes is one of the most well-known destinations for whale watching in the world and she has developed marketing strategies for the activity since the early 2000s. Further, she has recently worked on a project specifically to develop travel strategies for Puerto Pirámides due to COVID19 restrictions.
The most important outcomes of this project will be new, sustainable services and products that will help not just Hvalsafari AS, but also the local community as it will expand the tourism offer and promote longer stays in Andenes. The research activities will bring a positive change in the products the company offers, as well as the transfer of knowledge to locals, visitors, and the general public, and develop protocols to minimise disturbance, which will also improve tourist satisfaction.


Dr Mel Cosentino

Born in Argentina, Mel moved to Europe two decades ago to pursue her dream to build a professional career as a cetacean researcher. She obtained her biology degree in Spain, and a masters in marine ecology and a PhD with a focus on bioacoustics and computer science in the UK. Over the years, she built a broad background working as a researcher and as a whale watching guide in several European countries, and collaborating with organisations and scientists from around the world. She has a good track record of scientific publications and regularly engages in outreach activities. Her research interests are focused on several aspects of conservation of whales, dolphins, and porpoises, especially on the impact of human activities on them, which led her to study the impact of whale watching vessels on sperm whales in Andenes in 2011.

Role: Leader of the scientific programme
Twitter handle: @Melanthropics

Dr Raquel de la Cruz Modino

Raquel is an Assistant Professor of University of La Laguna (Spain). She has a special interest in the frontiers between the local communities and the protection of the sea, which led her to obtain two master’s degree in management, one focused on resources and heritage, and another on tourism entrepreneur. Her PhD research combined fisheries, tourism, and Marine Protected Areas, which was awarded with the national prize Marqués de Lozoya. Raquel received postdoctoral training at the University of Tromso (Norway) and the Memorial University (Canada). Raquel is involved in different international projects related to marine governance and development of sustainable tourism in Spain and elsewhere, and the results have been published in specialised scientific journals and publications directed to the general public. Further, her research has contributed to the improvement of natural resource management and sustainable use of marine wildlife through the implementation of marine protected areas and national marine parks.

Role: Principal investigator
Twitter handle: @RaquelModino

Gabriela Bellazzi

Gabriela works actively in her two passions: creative work and marine conservation. She has a Degree in Advertising, a post-graduate degree in copywriting and science communication, and a masters in digital marketing. For the past two decades, she put this knowledge at the service of marine conservation. She uses her science communication abilities for outreach and education efforts about cetaceans. Gabriela has extensive experience working in protected areas and tourism, participating in the Management Plan of Peninsula Valdes, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. She has also participated in the creation of events, products, and services related to whale watching in the area. Further, she is the coordinator of the cetacean stranding and disentanglement programme of Peninsula Valdes, and the co-founder of Agents of Nature, the first communication Agency in Argentina dedicated exclusively to advertising and design, for nature, conservation, and tourism.

Role: Leader of the dissemination programme
Twitter handle: @GabyBellazzi

Glenn Maan

Glenn was born in Andenes and lived there for over 20 years until he moved to Tromsø to obtain his Engineering degree in Nautical Sciences. He has been working for Hvalsafari AS for over 30 years and started as a seaman to later become a captain on one of the company’s vessels. He has spent thousands of hours at sea observing and listening to sperm whales and bringing people closer to these mysterious creatures. Glenn also holds a position in the company’s board of directors. When he is not working for Hvalsafari AS, he is engaged as a surveyor on a research vessel owned by the Norwegian government, whose main task is to map the sea bottom along the Norwegian coast and Svalbard (archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole), using multi-beam echo sounders.

Role: project manager

Sara Mesiti

Sara grew up in Italy, where she earned her master’s degree in environmental science at the University of Genoa. After working in education for a couple of years, she moved to Norway in 2014 to work at Hvalsafari AS as a whale-watching guide. This position has allowed her to combine her passions for nature, languages, and environmental education. For the past six years she has worked as guide coordinator for Hvalsafari AS, spending hundred of hours at sea and is responsible of various tasks, including training the new whale watching guides for the season. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Role: guide coordinator