Earlier this month, the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) launched a new initiative to acknowledge destinations around the world that “champion responsible whale and dolphin watching and celebrate the cultural importance of cetaceans (whales dolphins and porpoises) living in the waters around them.” These areas will be designated Whale Heritage Sites.
Whale Heritage Sites will be designated in areas that meet the highest standards of responsible whale and dolphin watching. In order to be awarded accreditation, these locations will be encouraged to connect locals and tourists alike with marine life not just through whale watching, but through arts, science, music, education, and events.
“In my opinion the best possible way to protect ocean wildlife is to encourage people to see it for themselves in a responsible way,” Secretariat of WCA, Dylan Walker, said in a news release. “If, through Whale Heritage Sites, those same people can also experience coastal communities that celebrate and care for their marine natural heritage and understand the importance of a sustainable approach, we may yet win the battle to save our oceans.”
WCA hopes that once a Whale Heritage site is designated, the destination will see an increase in visitor numbers and the associated economic benefits that will help “enable sustainable management of marine resources,” while celebrating the environment. The designation will also help tourists who are looking to travel to eco-friendly places.
The first Whale Heritage Sites Summit will be held this October in the Azores Islands, a place known as “a mecca for whale and dolphin enthusiasts.” Tourism, sustainability, and whale watching experts from around the world will meet to determine the criteria for site designation.
The Azores was selected as the location of the first Summit because represents success in the whale watching industry. The island nation successfully transitioned from a whale hunting to a whale watching industry, and is often listed as one of the top ten places to see cetaceans in the wild.
“We are delighted to have been chosen as the very first host of the Whale Heritage Sites Summit. Whales and dolphins have played a very important role in shaping our history, our heritage and our culture and we cherish these animals with which we share our seas,” said Francisco Gil, President of the Azores Promotion Board. “This initiative will help to secure their future wellbeing, not only in the Azores, but all over the world, allowing tourists and communities to enjoy and benefit from these incredible creatures for years to come. We are proud to be involved right from the start.”
Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.