Whale watching is a major tourist drawcard to the Hervey Bay region. (ABC News: Nicole Hegarty)
Queensland’s Hervey Bay has been named the world’s first Whale Heritage Site.
- Whale tourism attracts about 60,000 people to Hervey Bay, injecting $11 million each year into the economy
- The region’s council and tourism bodies have been working on the application for four years
- The title is expected to position the region as the premier destination for sustainable whale watching
The World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) awarded the accreditation in recognition of the region’s responsible and sustainable whale watching practices.
Hervey Bay this week hosted more than 100 whale researchers and conservationists as part of the World Whale Conference focusing on whale and dolphin protection.
WCA’s founding partner Clive Martin said the award was four years in the making.
“The inspiration for the correct protocols for whale watching has always been in the forefront of the operators of whale watchers in Hervey Bay. But it’s not just about the boats,” he said.
“Everything has to be respected — communities, animals, but also the coming together of the schools and science.”
Mr Martin said the recognition will highlight Hervey Bay as a leading example for other developing whale tourism sites around the world.
Martin Simons says the region is already a world leader in sustainable whale tourism. (ABC News: Nicole Hegarty)
“It is a very special award. It is in recognition of respecting the native communities as well, adopting practices that support environmental, social and economic sustainability, celebrating cetaceans through events and involving the local community,” he said.
Fraser Coast Tourism said whale watching was estimated to inject $11 million into the Fraser Coast economy annually.
General manager Martin Simons said almost 60,000 people went whale watching in the region last year, a figure that could grow with the new Whale Heritage Site status.
“It’s a major marketing opportunity. This award means that for those people who are wanting to go to places that have the best sustainable practice we’re at the top of the tree,” he said.
“Hervey Bay is the only place where there is a genuine stopover. The whales come and spend a couple of weeks relaxing. They’re just as interested in seeing people as we are in them.
“The listing helps to reinforce what this place is.”
Whale researcher Doctor Wally Franklin said Hervey Bay’s standing as a must visit destination for whale watchers.
Whale researcher Dr Wally Franklin says Hervey Bay is a unique resting site for whales. (ABC News: Nicole Hegarty)
“It is a globally unique whale location,” he said.
“Mature females feel confident enough in the wide, shallow embayment and protected waters of the bay to have their young whales go through early social development,” he said.
“Mothers have quality time in the bay to prepare for their first major journey to the Antarctic.
“It could absolutely become a more significant site, but it’s already globally unique and extremely special.
“I just wonder if everybody understands how special this place is for Humpback whales.”