General Manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching
As one of the first businesses in Dana Point Harbor, DWSF is celebrating 50 years in business. Family-owned since 1971, DWSF was started by Don Hansen and has been passed on to his children Mike, David, and Donna. Donna says she has been “immersed in the business since I was born” and is now involved with her brother, Mike, in the day-to-day operations of the company, while their brother David runs yachts and social media platforms dedicated to fishing. Donna remembers fondly going whale watching as a young girl with her father and fishing with the Dana Wharf Lady Anglers, and now shares that her favorite part of running DWSF is “giving back to the community! We love to donate fishing trips, whale-watching trips, and private charters to children as well as military families. We are very well known for our philanthropy.”
Through that charitable dedication, Donna, along with Gisele Anderson, co-owner of Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari, both leaders in their industry, trademarked Dana Point, the Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World ® and also got Dana Point designated as the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas. With assistance from the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), the world’s largest marine conservation partnership dedicated to the promotion of safe and sustainable whale watching, they achieved their goal of putting Dana Point on the map. A Whale Heritage Site is 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. Donna explained, “To have Dana Point recognized as a Whale Heritage Site is a dream and has been a goal of mine for some time. Dana Point has historically been an incredible destination to watch and to learn about whales and dolphins and now we are happy to share this with the world.” The process and criteria for acceptance are incredibly difficult and challenging and we have Donna and Gisele to thank for this exciting recognition.
DWSF has 27 boats in their fleet with everything from fishing boats to Catamarans to the classic schooner sailing ships and they even offer to parasail. Another of Donna’s joys is that they have clients from all over the country and the world. “Watching many of these people see a whale or dolphin in the wild for the first time is certainly a privilege and it is very rewarding to be a part of that experience and memory!”
And now what’s to come? “The harbor is 50 years old, and we have been here the whole time. And while it needs revitalization, we are very excited, can’t wait for construction to start this fall and look forward to continuing exceptional service to the community of Dana Point!”