Dolphins underwater at Whale Heritage Site Tenerife La Gomera - Francis Pérez

Two New Whale Heritage Sites Awarded in a Major Step for Wildlife Protection



Dana Point, California, USA has been awarded a prestigious title as the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas, highlighting a sustainable and responsible alternative to cruel captive wildlife attractions. It joins Tenerife-La Gomera marine area in southwest Tenerife, Spain, also announced today (January 27) as the first site in Europe to be awarded Whale Heritage Site status.

The Whale Heritage Sites program is a global accreditation program developed by the World Cetacean Alliance and supported by World Animal Protection, that recognizes destinations around the world that support and demonstrate the importance of cetaceans through culture, education, research, and conservation. 

The program offers the travel industry a way to identify and support responsible and sustainable practices and creates a platform for communities to engage with marine culture, heritage, and biodiversity.  

Both locations are a stark contrast to cruel, captive marine animal attractions that sell whale and dolphin performances and subject animals to lives of misery and suffering, such as SeaWorld. 

Opportunity to witness a variety of whale and dolphin species 

Dana Point, named the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World®, is one of the best places to view the magnificent blue whale. It has a variety of year-round whales and more dolphins per square mile than anywhere in the world. 

The site in Tenerife has long been a popular spot to see whales and dolphins in the wild and this accreditation recognizes the community’s commitment to respecting and celebrating these animals. 

Accreditation requirements 

To qualify for this global accreditation, candidate destinations must meet set criteria which recognize their commitment to cetacean conservation through responsible wildlife interactions. These include: 

  • Encouraging respectful human-cetacean coexistence 
  • Celebrating cetaceans 
  • Environmental, social, and economic sustainability 
  • Research, education, and awareness 

A good guide for tourists 

Whale Heritage Site status provides tourists with an easy way to select responsible whale and dolphin watching destinations; places where people can experience cetaceans in their natural habitat and in an authentic and respectful way. 

There are only two other Whale Heritage Sites in the world: The Bluff, South Africa, and Hervey Bay, Australia. 

Elizabeth Cuevas, Whale Heritage Sites Manager at World Cetacean Alliance, said: 

“The designation of Europe’s first Whale Heritage Site is a wonderful step forward for responsible tourism. We believe the site is fast becoming a world leader in sustainable whale and dolphin watching and this certification will help the local community by recognizing responsible whale watching practices supported by the latest research and conservation efforts.”  

Protecting wildlife and the natural world 

Becoming a Whale Heritage Site will ensure that visitors to Dana Point and Tenerife-La Gomera marine area are contributing to destinations that celebrate their natural heritage, protect marine wildlife, and build a connection between local residents and sea life. 

In addition to the opportunity to observe cetaceans, vibrant festivals and other events celebrate the marine environment and provide education and inspiration for tourists and locals alike. 

Nick Stewart, Global Head of Campaigns at World Animal Protection, said: 

“Captive dolphins are often forced to live their entire lives in barren tanks, reduced to performing in exchange for food, all in the name of family fun. This isn’t entertainment – it’s cruelty.

“These new Whale Heritage Sites are immensely important in the protection of wildlife because they showcase a viable, sustainable alternative. The sites will also help to spotlight tour operators who offer tourists a wonderful experience seeing whales in the wild while protecting the welfare of marine wildlife. In the 21st century, as the world builds back from COVID-19, there really is no reason for travel companies to sell tickets to cruel, outdated attractions which keep captive dolphins in permanent lockdown.” 

A new future for tourism 

Once travel is resumed, tourists visiting the site in Dana Point or southwest Tenerife will know they are taking part in a unique activity that respects and protects whales and dolphins. It’s an opportunity to experience these amazing creatures in the wild, where they belong.

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