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By Lillian Boyd

On Wednesday, September 22, the Dana Point Historical Society will honor Donna Kalez of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching and Gisele Anderson of Capt. Dave’s Dana Point Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari as the Founders Day recipients.

Thanks to Anderson and Kalez, Dana Point is now officially the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas, as established by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), the world’s largest marine conservation partnership.

Donna Kalez and Gisele Anderson, co-directors of the Dana Point Whale Watching Company, applied for Dana Point to be designated as a Whale Heritage Site in early 2020. Photo: Courtesy of Donna Kalez

The WCA is an organization that promotes safe and sustainable whale watching. A Whale Heritage Site is defined by the WCA as “an outstanding location where cetaceans (whales, dolphins, or porpoises) are embraced through the cultural, economic, social, and political lives of associated communities, and where people and cetaceans coexist in an authentic and respectful way.”

The co-directors of the Dana Point Whale Watching Company began the application process early in 2020 after successfully trademarking Dana Point as the Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World in 2019.  Kalez is the general manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, and Anderson operates Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari with husband Dave Anderson.

Kalez and Anderson oversaw a rigorous application process through 2020 and received the official designation last January.

“To have Dana Point recognized as a Whale Heritage Site is a dream and has been a goal of mine for some time,” Kalez has previously said. “Dana Point has historically been an incredible destination to watch and learn about whales and dolphins, and now we are happy to share this with the world.”

Kalez says the criteria for acceptance are incredibly challenging, focusing on protection, sustainability, education, research, public access and awareness, as well as requiring a community effort that furthers the purpose of a Whale Heritage Site.

“Being the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas is an amazing accomplishment and serves to further recognize Dana Point and the whales and dolphins that live and visit here the recognition they deserve, as well as send a message to the world that Dana Point is also a place that protects and responsibly watches cetaceans,” Anderson said.

To learn more about the Whale Heritage Sites, go to whaleheritagesites.org/sites or worldcetaceanalliance.org.

The Dana Point Historical Society requires unvaccinated attendees to wear masks at all times during the event. Vaccinated attendees may choose to wear masks when indoors, if desired.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with drinks and hors d’oeuvres on the patio, followed by an interview inside at 6:30 featuring the two Founders Day recipients. RSVP to the Dana Point Historical Society at events@danapointhistorical.org or by calling 949.248.8121.

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