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Whitsundays designated as a Whale Heritage Area

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The World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) is thrilled to announce that the Whitsundays has been designated as a Whale Heritage Area! The Whitsundays is now the second Whale Heritage Area in Australia, following Hervey Bay’s designation in 2019.

Whale Heritage Areas are part of the wider Wildlife Heritage Areas programme, co-founded by the WCA and World Animal Protection, which recognises outstanding wildlife-friendly tourism destinations around the world.

The Whitsunday Whale Heritage Area encompasses 74 islands situated on the Great Barrier Reef, boasting Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet lookout. But this stunning destination is more than just a tropical getaway: the safety and shelter of the islands also provides an important calving ground for humpback whales! Mother humpbacks with new calves can often be seen from July to September, teaching their young ones how to swim, dive, and even play.

Five other species of whale and four species of dolphin have been recorded in the Whitsundays. Some, like the short-finned pilot whale, can be seen year-round, while others are migratory.

Humpback whale photo by Debra Duggan, Red Cat Adventures
Photo of Whitehaven Beach by Tourism Whitsundays

In June, the arrival of migrating whales is celebrated with the Cultural Welcome Whale Event hosted by the region’s Traditional Owners, the Ngaro people. This cultural event signifies the start of whale season and acknowledges the deep spiritual connection between Traditional Owners and whales.

The Great Barrier Reef Festival in August is another celebration of the local marine environment, consisting of a four-day festival with parades, markets, local informational stalls, reef workshops, immersive experiences, and a family fun day.

To help protect their precious ocean life, the community-led Whales of the Whitsundays project aims to keep locals and tourists alike informed about the region’s whales and the threats they face. The project is working to reinforce boat distance guidelines and reduce noise pollution in the area, as well as encouraging people to get involved in citizen science projects.

Photo of Hayman Island, Dolphin Point, by Tourism Whitsundays
Humpback whale photo by Gordon Simmons

The Whitsunday Local Marine Advisory Committee hopes that the region’s new status as a designated Whale Heritage Area will also provide a boost to citizen science, raising awareness of the majestic animals that live in and visit the Whitsundays, and inspiring people to play an active part in better understanding and protecting them.

Elizabeth Cuevas Zimbrón, the WCA’s Whale Heritage Areas Programme Manager, said: “Achieving this prestigious designation is a great success for the Whitsundays, reflecting the community’s hard work and commitment to marine protection and cultural heritage! As an important region for humpback whales and their conservation, the Whitsundays is an ideal destination to join our global network of Whale Heritage Areas.”

Header photo of Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach, by Tourism Whitsundays.

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