North Vancouver Island, the Azores Islands, Hervey Bay, Queensland, the Dominican Republic, Newport Beach, California, Montauk, New York, Tenerife South and Zihuatenejo, Mexico have all applied to become Whale Heritage Sites (WHS) within seven days of applications opening on 4th April 2016.
The eight whale watching destinations made their application online through the Whale Heritage Site website, answering a series of qualifying questions. Their answers will now be considered by the WHS Steering Committee and a decision taken whether to approve them for Whale Heritage Site Candidate status.
At this stage, a more in-depth audit will be undertaken and a report produced to highlight which areas fulfil the criteria and where improvements need to be made. Destinations can then work independently or seek the assistance of the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), the partnership which operates the accreditation initiative, to work on these improvements and set processes in place for continual progression. Once the destination is ready, it will file a report to the Independent Judging Committee and an on-site inspection will be undertaken to determine whether the destination can be granted full Whale Heritage Site Accreditation.
Whale Heritage Site accreditation will be awarded to areas of the world considered to be centres of excellence and responsibility in taking care of and interacting with cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).
Leigh Bennett, Interim General Manager, Visit Fraser Coast said,
‘Applying for Whale Heritage Site status is a matter of common sense for the local community and tourism industry of Hervey Bay, Queensland where the whale watching industry forms an integral part of our social fabric.
Hervey Bay in Queensland, is renowned as Australia’s premier whale watching destination. With the area already incorporating world heritage listed Fraser Island, the Great Sandy Marine Park and UNESCO biosphere reserve, receiving global recognition for our world-class standards of environmental conservation and unique cetacean interactions will help cement our reputation for providing unparalleled and authentic nature-based experiences to audiences from around the world. Additionally, gaining WHS status also helps lift the standards of our whale watching fleet to new heights and sees them actively engaging in a truly global network – we’re all very excited to be considered for this new initiative.’
Jared Towers, North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (NIMMSA), British Columbia, said,
‘NIMMSA is an organization that values conservation of the marine environment especially as it relates to cetaceans. We also welcome opportunities for economical and sustainable development of a responsible whale-watching industry. The Whale Heritage Site initiative highlights our values and will help us to frame and promote them for the benefit of cetaceans and people in the north island region.’
Dylan Walker, Secretariat of the World Cetacean Alliance, said,
‘I am thrilled that we have already received applications from so many prestigious whale watching destinations, and hope we will receive many more. Destinations with the best practices deserve to be acknowledged and, for the first time, tourists seeking responsible whale watching experiences will be able to identify the best in the world.’
To nominate your destination for Whale Heritage Site accreditation, please contact Dylan Walker at the World Cetacean Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org or apply online at https://whaleheritagesites.org/application/