World’s First Whale Heritage Sites

Home » News » World’s First Whale Heritage Sites

The Bluff, South Africa and Hervey Bay, Australia Announced as World’s First Whale Heritage Sites

The World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) is excited to announce that both The Bluff, South Africa and Hervey Bay, Australia have been officially recognised as the World’s first Whale Heritage Sites.

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 (whales, dolphins & porpoises) habitats and the long-term economic health of human communities and where respectful coexistence with cetaceans is supported through law, policy and cooperation.

The Bluff, South Africa

Attracting over 60% of the visitors that come to Durban, The Bluff is a geographical area, containing seven Durban suburbs in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa.

Durban’s Tourism Organisation, Sodurba and WILDOCEANS WhaleTime project spearheaded the application to achieve World Heritage Site status for the area, with plans to develop The Bluff into a signature eco-tourism enterprise, in part due to its former land-based whaling station. The Bluff is adjacent to the Marine Protected Areas of both Aliwal Shoal and Trafalgar, which together offer protection to over 850 km2 of ocean.

WILDOCEANS WHALETIME Project at WWC2017. Image: Wendy van Gool

The South African Department of Environment rigorously regulates cetacean safety, permitting only two whale watch operations within the newly announced Whale Heritage Site. Additionally, a key initiative in the area is to provide extensive research opportunities through whale watching internships and citizen science programmes.

The Bluff also celebrates cetaceans through its annual ‘Welcoming of the Whales Festival’ which despite only being launched three years ago, attracted 6000 visitors in 2019. The festivities educate the community about cetaceans, their behaviours and the habitats in which they live. It promotes eco-tourism and encourages community engagement in sustainability and ocean protection.

Whale School Art Project as part of WWC2017. Image: Wendy van Gool

Shifting from its former whale hunting culture to a new phase of restoration and conservation, Sodurba educates the community through a range of other events such as paddle-outs, beach ceremonies, community markets, a sports event and public tours of the Whaling Station.

“We have been hugely impressed with the community of people living and working on The Bluff and their desire to retain their heritage and links with whales and dolphins through festivals, trails, guided walks and whale watching opportunities,” said WCA CEO Dylan Walker.

Hervey Bay, Australia

More than 8,000 migrating humpback whales come to rest and socialise in the protected waters of Platypus Bay between World Heritage listed K’gari (Fraser Island) and the Australian mainland. Hervey Bay, an important habitat for mature females accompanying immature whales early in the season and mothers with calves later, is neither a terminal destination nor a calving or breeding area but rather a stopover early in the southern migration (Franklin, 2012).

Humpback Whale Image: Whale Watch Western Australia

Hervey Bays is also included in the Great Sandy Bay Marine Park, which allows for better management of regulations, providing the highest level of safety for cetaceans.

Operating under strict governmental legislation regarding cetacean approach distances and vessel management, the Hervey Bay fleet provides whale and dolphin watching opportunities to almost 60,000 visitors annually.

Driven by Fraser Coast Tourism and Events (FCTE), Hervey Bay has achieved Whale Heritage Site status through its promotion and support of marine education enhanced by its relationship with the Marine Research Campus of Sunshine Coast University. Within the Bay there are a range of research programmes and expeditions such as the Oceania Project, which provide long-term insights into migrating humpback behaviour in the region. FCTE’s extensive community engagement programmes promote environmental conservation and protection as well as sustainability messaging to benefit the marine environment in Hervey Bay. Combined with valuable information sharing and its responsible whale watching industry, both the whale watching educational experience and community knowledge within is amplified in a positive way.

FCTE offers educational and research activities at their purpose built Discovery Sphere and regional gallery. It inspires a sense of community pride and belonging through the annual Ocean Festival, blessing of the fleet, paddle out for whales and whale parade events.

Humpback whale sculpture – part of the World Whale Conference 2019 celebrations in Hervey Bay. Image: Clive Martin

Both The Bluff and Hervey Bay are awarded the World’s first Whale Heritage Site Accreditation in recognition of their outstanding practices that support whale and dolphin protection through environmental, social and economic sustainability, celebrating cetaceans through culture, events, education, responsible whale watching and local community engagement.

For further information please contact: Rachael Barber, WCA Chair of the Communications Working Group


Reference: Franklin, P. 2012. The social and ecological significance of Hervey Bay, Queensland, for eastern Australia humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). Thesis submitted to the School of Environmental Science and Management in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Southern Cross University.

More Posts