The presence of whales is reported to boost healthy fish stocks. (Luke Dutton, Island Packers)

The Santa Barbara Channel is one of the best places in the world to whale watch. In the past two months alone, there have been more than 50 reported whale sightings including blue, fin, gray, humpback, and killer whales.

For this reason, the Santa Barbara Channel is one of eight potential candidate sites to become a Whale Heritage Site.

The Whale Heritage Site program is run by the World Cetacean Alliance and World Animal Protection to establish accredited sites where ocean habitats and cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are respected, protected and celebrated by their community.

To earn the honor of becoming a Whale Heritage Site, key criteria must be met.

Currently, there are only five designated Whale Heritage Sites: two in South Africa, one in Australia, one in Spain, and one south of Santa Barbara at Dana Point, California.

The sites highlight the most sustainable platforms for engaging with marine life through responsible whale watching and community participation through education, research, and whale celebrations. There is a history of connection to the cetaceans in the Santa Barbara area through the Chumash people.

Becoming a Whale Heritage Site will help the Santa Barbara Channel become recognized as one of the best places to reconnect with nature through the giant mammals in their natural habitat in an environmentally responsible way,

Whales are best appreciated when watching them in their natural environment, where they play an important ecological role. By diving down and resurfacing, they act as a nutrient pump and promote ecosystem health. Studies have shown the presence of whales bolsters healthy fish stocks.

The benefits cetaceans bring to the oceans also include carbon sequestration. It has ben observed that many cetaceans even have their own cultures.

Whales are social creatures whose populations have developed unique communication styles and behaviors, which have been passed down through generations.

“Whales have the power to inspire millions of people to care about our oceans,” said Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society, and honorary president of World Cetacean Alliance. “They have enormous environmental and personal values to humans and to the planet.

“I believe more and more people are placing learning and discovery at the heart of their travels. They want to understand how their trips and excursions contribute to the conservation of the places they visit and the protection of rich biodiversity of species that also call these popular places home.”

A local Whale Heritage Site would be a conservation and educational opportunity, spotlighting the high diversity of cetaceans in the Santa Barbara Channel, including the waters in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and around the Channel Islands National Park.

This is due, in part, to the unique biological productivity and oceanographic conditions that occur in local waters. It also is due to the conservation management set in place by local, state, and national agencies and organizations.

This is what makes this channel an ideal place for feeding and migrating cetaceans. The community is encouraged to support and protect whales by establishing the next Whale Heritage Site.

To get involved, or learn more about the efforts of establishing a Whale Heritage Site in the Santa Barbara Channel, visit