Whale Heritage Sites to be designated around the world

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The World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) has today launched a new initiative to recognise those worldwide destinations which champion responsible whale and dolphin watching and celebrate the cultural importance of the cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) living in the waters around them.

Whale Heritage Site status will be awarded to areas of the world considered to be centres of excellence and responsibility in taking care of and engaging with cetaceans. The highest standards of responsible whale and dolphin watching must be achieved, but the accreditation requirements will go further, encouraging destinations to actively engage their own communities and the tourists who visit, connecting people with marine life through arts, science, music, education and events.

It is hoped that designation of a destination as a Whale Heritage Site will boost visitor numbers and the incomes of tourism providers, enable sustainable management of marine resources, and celebrate history, the environment and cultural identity. It will also assist tourists in making the best choices about where to go to watch whales and dolphins in the wild.

The first Whale Heritage Sites Summit will be held this October in the Azores Islands, reflecting the islands’ long standing position as a mecca for whale and dolphin enthusiasts. Frequently listed in the world’s top ten destinations to watch these magnificent creatures in the wild, the Azores have successfully transitioned from a whale hunting to a whale watching economy, and the islanders keep their cultural association with the whales and dolphins alive through a number of excellent museums and vibrant events.

The summit will be attended by representatives from tourist destinations, international institutions, and the charitable and the private sectors, and by global experts on tourism, sustainability and whale watching. Attendees will come together in the Azores to discuss the Whale Heritage Site concept, and debate and agree the criteria for site designation.

All destinations interested in achieving Whale Heritage Site status are asked to register their interest with the WCA and will be invited to join the Summit in October. The ambition is that the first site will achieve Whale Heritage Site status in 2016.

Said Secretariat of WCA, Dylan Walker,

“In my opinion the best possible way to protect ocean wildlife is to encourage people to see it for themselves in a responsible way. 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.”

Said Francisco Gil, President of the Azores Promotion Board,

“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. 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.”

For more information about Whale Heritage Sites and the Whale Heritage Sites Summit to be held on Faial in the Azores on 28 – 30 October 2015, click here.

The World Cetacean Alliance is the world’s largest Partnership working to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans), representing 70 partners in 23 countries worldwide. Through cooperation, the WCA aims to conserve and protect cetaceans and their habitats in the world’s oceans, seas and rivers to ensure their continued health and survival. To find out more about the WCA, please visit our website at www.worldcetaceanalliance.org

To find out more about the Azores, please visit www.visitazores.com

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