Importance of Whale Heritage Areas

Whales and dolphins are intelligent, socially complex animals that should be protected and celebrated wherever they are found in their natural habitats. As well as having intrinsic value, they’re also charismatic emblems of our seas and indicators of the health of marine ecosystems, with the power to inspire millions of people to care about the ocean. Yet they are under threat from commercial activities including fishing, shipping, drilling and mining, tourism, and coastal development.

As concern about the cruelty of captivity increases and demand for experiential holidays rises, the number of people wanting to see whales and dolphins in the wild is also expanding. It’s vital to support the growing whale watching industry to ensure that cetaceans continue to have an economic value through responsible tourism – and one that far outweighs the value of their meat through commercial hunting or as ‘entertainers’ in captive facilities. It’s also important to ensure that whale watching activities don’t cause more harm than good. In the worst cases, unsustainable wildlife tourism can result in behavioural change or even physical harm to the very animals that attract visitors and support livelihoods.

Whale Heritage Areas are uniquely valuable by empowering communities to protect whales and dolphins through responsible tourism, education, research, conservation, and culture.

The Whale Heritage Areas programme is creating positive ripples across the globe, helping cetaceans and communities to thrive and supporting tourists to make responsible choices.

Human-Cetacean History

Whale Heritage Areas are places where coastal communities celebrate cetaceans and marine biodiversity in all walks of life; through the arts, music, science, education and cultural events. These destinations deliver long-term protection for marine habitats, allowing tourists to witness these beautiful animals for thousands more years into the future.

They also ensure sustainable development for the communities that depend on the sea, inspiring local people to value their whale- and dolphin-related heritage.

Empowering communities

One of the most exceptional aspects of Whale Heritage Areas is that each area is entirely managed by local communities on their terms. Although anybody can apply to become a Whale Heritage Area, they can only make progress with their application through collaboration: by forming a Steering Committee from stakeholders across the area, communicating progress, and engaging with the wider community consistently.

Each Whale Heritage Area is on its own unique journey as it strives for continual improvement across the criteria. It can therefore appear that some areas have higher standards than others, but that ignores a key component of what makes a Whale Heritage Area – the potential to improve!

The Whale Heritage Area Independent Review Panel assesses this potential based on the community’s willingness to work together and their ability to problem solve through the implementation of joint initiatives. This requirement is not based on wealth, and enables areas with weak financial resources but a strong collective will to be successful!


World Cetacean Alliance, 132-134 Albion Street, Southwick, West Sussex, BN42 4DP, UK.

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