Thirty three potential WHS identified in Africa

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The World Cetacean Alliance recently completed an online survey of stakeholders to identify ‘Areas of Interest’ for Whale Heritage Sites across Africa.

Whale Heritage Site (WHS) status is granted to those places around the world where cetaceans are celebrated through art, education, research and cultural events; 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.

The full report can be downloaded here: WHS in AFRICA survey results 2017

In summary, the survey highlighted the following:

  1. Thirty three Areas of Interest were identified across 22 African countries.
  2. Respondents included: Whale watch industry 18.4%, NGOs 15.8%, Travel industry 11.8%, Universities 6.6%, and Local authority 5.3%
  3. Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus / aduncus) were listed most regularly.
  4. Of 35 cetacean species reported across the Areas of Interest, IUCN list 3 species as Endangered, 1 species as Near Threatened, 2 species as Vulnerable, 14 species as Data Deficient, and 15 species are of Least Concern.
  5. The top four impacts on cetaceans were listed as: 1. Fishing practices (including bycatch); 2. Pollution; 3. Noise pollution; and 4. Ocean plastics.
  6. African respondents highlighted the following strengths in meeting the WHS criteria:
  • Application of responsible whale watching guidelines, with commercial operators supporting research programmes.
  • Ancient cultural links with cetaceans; historical whaling heritage; artistic associations; and whale festivals.
  • Cetacean related education programmes delivered to local communities.
  • Cetacean based conservation research and policy.
  • Sustainable livelihoods are created, generating local employment, local communities take part in decisions, and responsible tourism management ensures active and ongoing improvement towards sustainability.
  • Marine and terrestrial ecosystems are maintained and enhanced.

The survey results were presented at the Whale Heritage Sites Summit, Durban, South Africa, on 28-29 June 2017 by Graham Drucker (compiled by Beth Hinton), WCA Secretariat. A workshop followed in which we tested the criteria for Whale Heritage Sites on a number of African sites and found that it was possible for these sites to meet the criteria even if financial and other resources were limited.

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