By Sharon Atieno
South Africa becomes the only country in the world to have two accredited Whale Heritage sites. This is after Algoa Bay received the accolade.
The global accreditation scheme -developed by the World Cetacean Alliance and supported by World Animal Protection- recognises a community´s commitment to respect and celebrate whales, dolphins and other cetaceans.
One unique aspect in Algoa Bay located in Port Elizabeth, South Africa is the sheer number of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphins, with schools of up to 800 individual dolphins encountered on marine tours. A long standing scientific research project established since the 1990s, estimates that there are approximately 30,000 resident bottle-nose dolphins.
The area also experiences seasonal visits from southern right whales, humpback whale, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, Bryde’s whales and Cape gannets. It is also home to the largest breeding colony of African penguins in the world.
“The accreditation of Algoa Bay as a new Whale Heritage Site is immensely important in the protection of wildlife in South Africa. It showcases a viable, sustainable alternative to cruel attractions like captive dolphin venues and other wildlife entertainment activities,” said “Nick Stewart, Global Head of Campaigns at World Animal Protection.
“The site will also help to spotlight tour operators who offer tourists a wonderful experience seeing whales and dolphins in the wild, where they belong, while protecting the welfare of marine wildlife.”
Algoa Bay joins four Whale Heritage Sites: Hervey Bay in Australia; Tenerife-La Gomera Marine area in Southwest Tenerife, Spain; Dana Point in California US, and the Bluff in Durban, South Africa.
“Becoming a Whale Heritage Site will ensure that visitors to the Algoa Bay marine area are contributing to destinations that celebrate natural heritage, protect marine wildlife and build a connection between local residents and sea life,” said Lloyd Edwards, owner of Raggy Charters / The Baywatch Project, and a member of the site´s Steering Committee.
“In addition to the opportunity to observe sea mammals in the ocean, to attend vibrant festivals and other events that celebrate the marine environment and provide education and inspiration for tourists and locals alike.”
Whale Heritage Site status also provides tourists with an easy way to select responsible whale and dolphin watching destinations; places where people can experience these magnificent animals in their natural habitat and in an authentic and respectful way.
To qualify for this global accreditation, destinations like Algoa Bay must meet set criteria which recognises their commitment to cetacean conservation through responsible wildlife interactions and sustainability. These include: encouraging respectful human-cetacean coexistence; celebrating cetaceans; environmental, social and economic sustainability; and research, education and awareness.