Auditors from around the world were in the Campbell River area this week as the North Island attempts to become a Whale Heritage Site.
The North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association, along with the help of North Island local governments, is behind the movement trying to secure the designation.
The group wants Vancouver Island North to be accredited as one of the world’s first Whale Heritage Sites by 2017.
Coun. Larry Samson said the association is “actively moving forward” and that auditors from around the world were in the area on Wednesday and Thursday as part of the designation process.
“We’re one of the first areas in the world to be looking at receiving this designation and we’re also one of the first to actually have the auditors on the ground,” Samson said, adding the auditors came from Florida, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
Samson added that so far the movement has received support from area First Nations, as well as communities up and down the North Island.
“The collaboration received…is just remarkable,” Samson said.
Campbell River city council, for its part, supported a request from the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association in April to fund one-third of the accreditation fee ($10,000) and an annual licensing fee ($2,000).
The association says that if it’s successful in securing heritage designation, the region will be given global recognition which would likely bolster the tourism industry and create opportunities for marine conservation.
Whale Heritage Sites are a new accreditation scheme started by the World Cetacean Alliance out of the United Kingdom to recognize the best locations around the world offering responsible whale and dolphin watching.
The goal, according to the World Cetacean Alliance, is to increase the protection and conservation of cetaceans and their habitats while at the same time provide environmental education, increase visitors to a designated site, and, in some cases, develop alternative livelihoods in those communities that were once reliant on fishing.
The North Island is home to several whale watching tour companies.
One, Wildcoast Adventures, made headlines earlier this week after one of its kayaking groups encountered a humpback and her calf jumping up out of water near Cortes Island.
According to the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association, whale watching off the North Island began in 1979, pre-dating any other killer whale-focused marine ecotourism industry around the world.