Dana Point Designated as a Whale Heritage Site

Dana Point business competitors worked together to gain world recognition for the city as the first Whale Heritage site in North America.

DANA POINT一 Donna Kalez, co-president of Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, and Gisele Anderson, co-president of Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari are business competitors and friends who have accomplished something remarkable.

In January of this year, Dana Point was recognized as the first Whale Heritage site in North America and one of four in the world by the World Cetacean Alliance.

The WCA is one of the largest marine conservation groups in the world, made up of different businesses, NGOs, and other individuals, that launched in 2013.

Kalez was already a member of the alliance and when she attended a WCA meeting in Boston, Massachusetts she was inspired to pursue a designation for Dana Point.

Anderson shortly joined after Kalez and the two started a mission to have Dana Point designated as a Whale Heritage Site. The overall process took three years, from trademarking Dana Point as the Dolphin and Whale watching capital of the world to “dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s” on the application.

The actual application for the Whale Heritage site was over 100 questions showcasing that Dana Point has integrated whales and dolphins into its culture, provides education, public outreach, research, and conservation efforts.

Kalez and Anderson had to create a steering committee made up of seven people throughout the community of Dana Point, members came from education, nonprofit, and political backgrounds.

“It’s a lot of different folks to whom this designation does make a difference and they have a role in helping us keep that designation,” said Anderson.

Education and the integration of dolphins and whales into the culture of Dana Point is a group effort between community groups like the Ocean Institute, which takes out 100,000 kids a year to teach about the marine environment and the Nature Interpretive Center on the Dana Point headlands showcasing the landmark for the gray whale’s migratory pattern.

Applications are reviewed once a year by a panel of scientists, conservationists, and researchers from around the world, and candidates are expected to continue to show their merits each year.

“[The application process] is a testament to the WCA, they are very thorough.” said Kalez “They are not just going to hand it out to a whale watching company that works in a great place that has whales. That’s not what they are doing [and] it really is a wonderful thing and it highlights Dana Point.”

The application was turned in a month-and-a-half before the panel met to review the yearly applications, and between prep-work from Kalez and Anderson and good timing, the application was fast-tracked to two-months.

“It’s the old adage, a high tide raises all boats, and we recognize it benefits Dana Point and it benefits the animals and [that’s] where our hearts and souls are its not just business for us…it goes really deep,” said Anderson.

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