Power to the people!
One of the most unique aspects of the Whale Heritage Sites programme is that each site is entirely managed by local communities on their terms. Although anybody can apply to become a Whale Heritage Site, they can only make progress with their application by encouraging the involvement of stakeholders from across the site: forming a Steering Committee, communicating progress, and engaging with the wider community consistently.
Provided that the Steering Committee can prove that the community supporting the application have the ability to implement and enforce management practices that will benefit cetaceans, they have every chance of submitting a successful application.
Winning by collaborating!
Although each Whale Heritage Site must meet robust criteria, the Whale Heritage Site Independent Review Panel (IRP) also look closely at the level of collaboration between individuals, community groups, NGO’s, educational establishments, and local governments. Each WHS is on its own unique journey as it strives for continual improvement across the four required criteria. It can therefore appear that some sites have higher standards than others, but that ignores a key component of what makes a Whale Heritage Site – the potential to improve! The WHS judges assess this based on the community’s willingness to work together and their ability to problem solve through the implementation of joint initiatives. This requirement is not based on wealth, and enables sites with weak financial resources but a strong collective will to be successful!
We love it when a plan comes together
Bringing people together with different priorities, perspectives, and opinions can be challenging, but the Whale Heritage Sites programme is showing us that those challenges are soon eclipsed by the rewards of working towards the same collective goals. Our network of Whale Heritage Sites are full of people who’ve achieved so much by working in collaboration. Across our sites local communities are fighting off oil spill threats, reducing the risk of whales becoming entangled in nets, setting up new whale festivals, cleaning up plastic pollution, and inspiring the next generation through ocean literacy. Their stories are humbling and inspiring, and remind us all why Whale Heritage Sites are so important!