In September 2015 the WCA formed a new partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at the Twenty-Sixth Meeting of Officials in Apia, Samoa. SPREP, which includes 26 Member countries, is the regional coordinating organisation responsible for the protection and sustainable management of the environment in the Pacific Islands region. Every two years SPREP members designate a key theme to focus their activities; 2016/2017 will be the Year of the Whale.
In 2016 SPREP, Pacific Island governments and partners, including the WCA, will launch a campaign to strengthen whale conservation across the Pacific island region. Through the Memorandum of Understanding the WCA and SPREP will work to establish a Whale Heritage Trail in the Pacific Islands with several potential Whale Heritage Sites under development.
WCA Partner Natalie Barefoot (Cet Law) expressed her gratitude to SPREP for its commitment to whales. “Whales indicate to us when there are issues with our ocean environments. As ecotourism grows, tour operators will become increasingly dependent on them, yet at the same time human activities are having a greater impact on whales. Whale Heritage Sites will recognise those destinations that maintain sustainable livelihoods for people while actively protecting, respecting and celebrating whales. We thank SPREP for its support as we collaboratively undertake this work,” said Ms. Barefoot.