The best global destinations for responsible whale and dolphin watching are being recognised as Whale Heritage Sites (WHS) status, an initiative established by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA).
In June 2017 the World Whale Conference was held in Durban and this inspired Helga du Preez and Melissa Lee of Sodurba Community Tourism Association (CTO) to place a bid for eThekwini to be granted Whale Heritage status.
Only two of the nine international applications were successful, the Bluff, South Africa and Hervey Bay in Australia.
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What international whale heritage site means for Durban
Regional, national, and global attention is given to areas with WHS accreditation, which helps to promote the protection and conservation of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and their habitats and the promotion of sustainable tourism.
‘Because it is a very rare occurrence for somebody to be issued a Whale Heritage Site, it opens up a world of possibilities with the international community for Durban as a whale-viewing destination,’Josh Thomson, owner of Whale and Dolphin Tours in Durban, says news of the accreditation is fantastic.
Whale Heritage Site status is granted to places where communities and tourists actively engage with cetaceans through art, music, science, education and cultural events. According to Helga du Preez, its granted to areas ‘where sustainable practices and livelihoods are continually improved to ensure the health of cetacean habitats and the long-term economic health of human communities and where respectful coexistence with cetaceans is supported through law, policy and cooperation.’
According to Southlands Sun, Helga and Melissa were ‘supported by WildOceans’ Rachel Kramer, Matthew Cocks of WESSA and Bluff ward councillor JP Prinsloo worked assiduously with the Bluff Steering Committee to meet the criteria required by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) to apply for certification.’
‘WHS’s are becoming the gold standard for responsible whale watching destinations worldwide,’ said Jean-Michel Cousteau, honorary president of the World Cetacean Alliance
Featured image: Graham Fenwick