Spearheaded by Helga du Preez and Melissa Lee, of Soul of South Durban (SODURBA) Community Tourism Association, the campaign to bid for Whale Heritage Site status for eThekwini has seen fruition. Inspired by the World Whale Conference held in Durban in June 2017, du Preez, supported by WILDOCEANS’ Rachel Kramer, Matthew Cocks of WESSA and Bluff ward councillor JP Prinsloo worked assiduously with the Bluff Steering Committee to meet the criteria required by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) to apply for certification.
Established by the WCA, Whale Heritage Sites are an initiative aimed at increasing the protection and conservation of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and their habitats while also contributing to sustainable livelihoods, the arts, science and education.
Whale Heritage Site (WHS) status is granted to those places around the world where cetaceans are celebrated through art, education, research and cultural events; where sustainable practices and livelihoods are continually improved to ensure the health of cetacean habitats and the long-term economic health of human communities; and where respectful coexistence with cetaceans is supported through law, policy and cooperation. Whale Heritage Sites are high sea or coastal marine areas, and less often freshwater rivers and lakes, where cetaceans live, and the associated land areas. Whale Heritage Sites are identified against criteria that interweave natural and cultural elements and acknowledge critical places that, for reasons of physical and social geography, are sites where people can coexist with cetaceans in an authentic and respectful way. “Whale Heritage Sites are becoming the gold standard for responsible whale watching destinations worldwide,” said Jean-Michel Cousteau, honorary president of the World Cetacean Alliance, which runs the certification initiative.
Accreditation as a Whale Heritage Site brings regional, national, and global attention to the area and helps to promote sustainable tourism, marine conservation, and the whale-related cultural heritage of coastal communities. Out of nine international applications only two where successfully, the Bluff in Durban (South Africa) and Hervey Bay in Australia. The potential economic impact on the South Durban Basin and eThekwini as a whole is tremendous and will be embraced by all stakeholders who will benefit from the steering committee’s achievement. Only two such sites exist in the world and the Bluff is one of them. “This can be a strategic job creator and investment opportunity in our city and community. Given the difficult economic climate and high unemployment rate such an opportunity should be widely embraced. This is also a chance for us to keep building towards our vision of making the Bluff a Green Community,” said JP Prinsloo, ward councillor for the Bluff area.
The Bluff offers an historic whaling station and many opportunities for whale and dolphin watching along the extensive coast. This presents an opportunity for tourists to take a cultural and environmental journey from the cruel, irresponsible activities of commercial whaling to the respect these magnificent animals now deserve from conservation authorities around the world.
The future success of the Whale Heritage Site status will rely heavily on building partnerships and getting private investment. Another key success factor will be the response by the city of eThekwini and their drive towards supporting this fledgling industry. The combined efforts of SODURBA, WILDOCEANS (a programme of the WILDTRUST), WESSA Treasure Beach, the councillor and local municipal officials has proved successful. These successes include an annual Welcoming of the Whales Festival attended by more than 6000 people in 2019, a Whale Sports festival, establishing view sites, whale themed art installations along the whale heritage route and a 3m whale sculpture called Destiny.
Dylan Walker, CEO of the World Cetacean Alliance said, “We would like to thank The Bluff Steering Committee for the outstanding work undertaken that has culminated in this certification. We view the Bluff as a wonderful example of how a small, but dedicated, group of people working tirelessly can develop responsible and sustainable tourism with associated benefits for local human and cetacean communities in an area that faces many other environmental and social challenges.”
WARD 66 councillor JP Prinsloo and his office together with Sodurba Tourism and WildOceans are currently working on a project to promote the KZN whale coast by developing and beautifying three main whale viewing points on the Bluff.
The viewpoints have been identified on Airlie and Netford Roads as well as Finnemore Place.
To help usher in this year’s Welcoming of the Whales Street Festival, the corner of Gray’s Inn Road and Marine Drive at the Bluff is now home to Destiny the whale. The art piece installation was launched by Sodurba and its sponsors on Wednesday, 26 June.
Helga du Preez from Sodurba Tourism Association said the South Durban Community Tourism Association launched the Welcoming of the Whales Festival in 2017, and Robin Opperman from Umcebo Design had made a mascot for the festival.
IT’S all systems go as Sodurba South Durban Tourism and ward 66 councillor JP Prinsloo unveiled plans to revitalise local tourism.
Sodurba hosted a meeting for stakeholders and community members recently to proactively engage on the role of tourism, improving the quality of local tourism, increasing access to transport and information to visitors and locals, regulating local businesses as well as how concerned groups can work together for the greater good of the environment.
The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa’s (WESSA) Treasure Beach educational centre on the Bluff played host to a rocky shores ecosystem challenge at Treasure Beach. Pupils explored the different sea creatures within the water close to the shore and simultaneously enjoyed first-hand experience of the harmful effects of water pollution on marine life. Part of the programme was well suited for the young ones’ curious minds as it included educational exhibits displaying different experiments and information all aimed at focusing on life below water and marine species.
WESSA is affiliated with a number of organisations in its mission to protect and care for the environment including the United Nations, Youth Managers Foundation, Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, Department of Environmental Affairs, Durban Solid Waste and eThekwini Municipality.