There will be a four-tiered candidacy process: an initial assessment online, a candidacy review, a final application, and then, assuming success, WHS designation.
- Online assessment: Initially the site will undergo an assessment online to ensure there are no fundamental issues that preclude WHS candidacy. This might include basic reasons where the coexistence of humans and cetaceans is viewed as consumptive or compromises welfare, for example, where commercial whaling still exists, or where cetaceans are held in captivity for any other reason than rehabilitation and release, or sanctuary.
- Candidate review: A site that has passed through initial review will be accepted as a WHS candidate and will receive the WHS candidate site logo and license. A detailed review, including a stakeholder analysis, will then take place resulting in a report with recommendations for specific improvement prior to application for full WHS status. Site sponsors undertake any required improvements either independently, or, if requested, with help and advice from the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA). Candidate WHS status will last for a maximum of three years before it is either revoked or renewed, or the site applies for full accreditation. During this period the site must submit annual reports summarising progress made towards full WHS status.
- Final application: At this point, the site is invited to submit the following information to the WHS Independent Review Panel (IRP):
- Baseline quantitative data (including for example statistics relevant to livelihoods, tourists visiting the area, whale-watch tour operators, protected areas, etc.) to enable the IRP to build a picture of the site.
- Justification for the geographical/political delineation of the site
- A detailed explanation of how the site achieves each of the criteria.
This information will be reviewed along with the report from an independent on-site audit. All of this information will be presented to the WHS IRP for consideration. The IRP will evaluate the site against the criteria and either 1) award the site WHS status; 2) award the site WHS status upon the fulfilment of certain specific conditions; or 3) deny WHS status. This process may be protracted where a site is well-developed under the criteria, or may involve a period of technical assistance to address identified weaknesses prior to full accreditation.
Site designation: The site has passed through the IRP and been designated as a WHS. The site will be expected to prepare and submit annual reports explaining how criteria are met, and will be subject to IRP review every three years. Upon request and submission of evidence that the criteria are no longer being met, the site may be investigated and/or downlisted.