THE WHITSUNDAYS has reached candidate status and is on track to become Australia’s second Whale Heritage Area.
Currently, Hervey Bay, on the Fraser Coast, is the sole Whale Heritage Area in the country.
To become certified as a Whale Heritage Site, the Whitsundays must make certain it shows the uppermost respect towards Cetaceans in the wild, this includes whales, dolphins and porpoises.
The region must also demonstrate active engagement by the local community and tourists, with regards to marine life, starting with education.
Each winter, the Whitsundays is the temporary home to hundreds of humpback Whales, as they travel through the warm, tropical waters on their way to Antarctica, in their annual migration.
Director at Whitsunday Environmental Olivia Brodhurst said that knowledge and respect of all cetaceans was vital to achieve the Whale Heritage accreditation.
“The World Cetacean Alliance is looking for places that are recognising not only Whales but also dolphins, porpoises and all Cetaceans, and are building their understanding and engagement around them,” Ms Brodhurst said.
“What we are looking to achieve now is to work with the Marine Park Authority and other people to improve our understanding of dolphins and whales, through improved citizen science (research conducted with participation from the public).
“We’re working with the Marine Park Authority to make sure all our whales and dolphins are on their citizen science apps, doing more education and engagement, and really getting our community to have a better understanding of our whales and dolphins.
“Not many people know much at all about what we do have out there.”
In the Whitsunday Whale Protection Area, additional rules apply when interacting with Cetaceans.
A vessel must not approach closer than 300 metres to a whale and a helicopter must not approach below 2,000 feet or within 1,000 metres of a whale.
“We’re looking to try and increase that knowledge by engaging more with the community and hopefully achieve a whale heritage site accreditation in the Whitsundays,” Ms Brodhurst said.
Currently, the Whitsundays has achieved a candidate status and will work over the next three years to achieve the heritage accreditation.
“It’s all about trying to increase people’s awareness and love for Cetaceans, so they will go and take other actions that will reduce their impact,” Ms Brodhurst said.
World Cetacean Alliance Partner Marie Harrington said the title of Whale Heritage Site was a vision for the future.
“Becoming a Whale Heritage Site is so much more than just a badge, it’s a vision for the future,” Ms Harrington said. “It’s a beacon for the global protection of whales and dolphins and it’s the gold standard for how sustainable practices and marine conservation can combine to support economic development.”