The Whale Heritage Sites Steering Committee is delighted to announce that the Azores, Portugal, has passed the initial application process to become a Whale Heritage Site and has been approved for candidacy. The site can now plan how to undertake the rigorous audit process as it attempts to meet the criteria required for full Whale Heritage Site status.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Azorean people developed the whaling industry, which turned to be important for the economy and culture of the islands. The Azores are one of the places in the world where tradition and whaling culture persists with pride. Although, hunting whales has been forbidden since 1984, much of the whaling heritage has been maintained and restored for cultural, but also sporty purposes, like the tradition of the rowing and sailing regattas in whaler boats. In the Azores, with skill and art (literature, sculptures, films, Scrimshaw, etc.), the values and memories of whaling have been cultivated, celebrated and explained in several museums scattered throughout the islands (for example, the Whaling Museum, Whaling Industry Museum, in Pico, the Whaling Station Museum in Faial, The Boqueirão Whaling Museum in Flores, among others). In addition, with several regional festivals, such as “Semana do Mar”/ ”Sea Week” (in Faial Island) and “Semana dos Baleeiros”/ ”Whalers Week” (in Pico Island), Azoreans and those who visit us, celebrate the relation between the people and the sea and the marine animals that inhabit it, particularly cetaceans. The Azores is one of the premier whale and dolphin watching sites in the world. In recent years there was a great development of the whale watching industry. The ease of finding whales and dolphins in these parts was accompanied by the development of dynamic tour operators and respectful of animal life. The legal framework defines a code of conduct and ethics followed by the operators supporting a sustainable whale watching industry. The relationship between Azoreans and cetaceans has been the subject of many films and documentaries since the 1950’s, for example by the BBC and National Geographic Society networks.