TORONTO, ON–There is some good news for those who love whales and dolphins and want to see and experience them ethically. The La Gomera Marine area in Southwest Tenerife, Spain and Dana Point, in California, USA, have been officially recognized as Whale Heritage Sites.

This is a global accreditation scheme developed by the World Cetacean Alliance and supported by the global charity World Animal Protection. It recognizes outstanding destinations for responsible viewing of wild whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. The new designation recognizes that the local communities are doing things right for people and animals by practicing socially and environmentally responsible economic development.

The site in South Tenerife has long been a popular spot to see whales and dolphins in the wild. And Dana Point, is one of the best places to view the magnificent Blue Whale.

World Animal Protection is promoting responsible wild animal watching experiences as a humane alternative to attractions that keep whales and dolphins in captivity for tourist entertainment. Both are multi-billion-dollar industries, but watching marine mammals responsibly in the wild generates economic benefits humanely and is a more authentic and educational experience.

“Captive whales and dolphins live their entire lives in small, barren tanks and perform demeaning and unnatural tricks in exchange for food at amusement parks and aquariums worldwide,” says Melissa Matlow, Canadian Campaign Director at World Animal Protection. “At a Whale Heritage Site, people get to see whales being whales and dolphins being dolphins while contributing to their protection in the wild.”

“When the pandemic is over and tourism resumes, we must leave the cruelty behind,” added Matlow. “These Whale Heritage Sites are a great way to build tourism back better and encourage a shift away from cruel, outdated attractions which keep captive mammals in permanent lockdown.”

In the wild, whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) can travel 64-160 kilometers a day, achieve speeds of 48 kilometers per hour, and dive hundreds of feet deep. Even in the largest facilities, captive cetaceans have less than 0.0001% (one millionth) of their natural habitat range and can suffer from health problems, including extreme stress, neurotic behaviours and abnormal levels of aggression.

The charity believes the Whale Heritage Sites align with changing public values and tourist demand, particularly in countries like Canada.

Canadian concern for protecting the welfare of cetaceans is reflected in legislation. The federal government passed Bill S-203 (The Free Willy Bill) in 2019 which bans the capture, breeding and captivity of cetaceans for tourist entertainment.

And Canadians are becoming more aware of the need for responsible tourism when viewing wildlife. A study commissioned by World Animal Protection and conducted by KANTAR PUBLIC showed that 84% of Canadians believe wild animals belong in the wild where they can live naturally. And 81% of Canadians would prefer to see animals in the wild.

World Animal Protection encourages people to always consider responsible tourism when traveling and to make sure to ask tour operators about their animal welfare policies.

People can also sign the charity’s pledge to be a wildlife-friendly tourist. In return, they will receive a travel guide with tips on how to comply with their commitment and the charity will use their support to demonstrate to travel companies the growing demand for wildlife-friendly tourism.

As for the Whale Heritage Sites, there are only two others in the world, The Bluff, in South Africa and Hervey Bay in Australia.

Vancouver Island North is a current candidate for whale heritage status. Watching areas within the region include Port Hardy and Telegraph Cove. Vancouver Island North is the habitat of eight species of cetacean and is known for whale research and responsible whale watching.

With more than 3,500 cetaceans currently in captivity globally, World Animal Protection hopes Whale Heritage Sites will help shift tourism towards more ethical practices to make this the last generation of cetaceans in captivity.

About World Animal Protection
From our offices around the world, including Brazil, Canada, China, Kenya, the Netherlands and the US, we move the world to protect animals. In 2019, we gave more than 3 billion animals better lives through our campaigns that focus on animals in the wild, animals in disasters, animals in communities and animals in farming. For more information visit

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