The proposed area for Whale Heritage Site designation includes the land area of all Azorean islands (eg, Flores, Corvo, Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Graciosa, Terceira, São Miguel and Santa Maria) and islets, and the surrounding marine territory of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Azores (EEZ-Azores).

Whale watching in the Azores is carried out in different marine areas of the archipelago, which are divided into four different zones, namely:


Zone A: corresponds to the jurisdiction of the Captaincy of the Port of Horta, except for the maritime outer limit, which is reduced to the outer limit of the territorial sea, subject to the jurisdiction of the Captaincy of the Port of Angra do Heroísmo;

Zone B: corresponds to the area of the territorial sea around the island of Sao Miguel;

Zone C: is the land area of the Azores, except for zones A and B;

Z Zone: is the EEZ-Azores, excluding the areas to which they relate the previous paragraphs.


In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Azorean people developed the whaling industry, which turned out 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 sport purposes, like the tradition of 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 relationship between the people and the sea and the marine animals that inhabit it, particularly cetaceans.

Whale watching

The Azores is one of the premier whale and dolphin watching sites in the world. In recent years there has been 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 respectful of animal life. There are so many starting points, spread over several islands, which form the basis for those wishing to make contact with marine mammals.

Whale watching activity is regulated by Regional Legislative Decree nº 9/99/A of March 22, amended and republished by the Regional Legislative Decrees nº 10/2003/A of March 22, and No 13/2004 /A of March 23. 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.

Reasons for becoming a WHS

We believe that this distinction will:


  1. Help to boost the Azorean region on the path of sustainable development with regard to all activities related to cetaceans and their conservation, especially the whale watching and research;


  1. Promote the Azores as a top destination for whale and dolphin watching;


  1. Encourage the improvement of practices and codes of conduct at sea;


  1. Encourage the development of new monitoring programs for cetaceans;


  1. Help every Azorean to feel proud of their connection to the sea and to the animals that inhabit it, especially marine mammals.



Cetaceans recorded in the Azores include:

Dolphins: Steno bredanensis, Delphinus delphis, Tursiops truncates, Stenella frontalis, Stenella coeruleoalba, Pseudorca crassidens, Orcinus orca, Grampus griseus, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Globicephala melas, Lagenodelphis hosei

Beaked Whales: Hyperoodon ampullatus, Zyphius cavirostris, Mesoplodon bidens, Mesoplodon densirostris, Mesoplodon europaeus, Mesoplodon mirus

Spermwhales: Kogia breviceps, Kogia simus, Physeter microcephalus

Baleen Whales: Eubalaena glacialis, Megaptera novaeangliae, Balaenoptera musculus, Balaenoptera physalus, Balaenoptera borealis, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Balaenoptera edeni