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What are Whale Heritage Sites?

The Whale Heritage Site (WHS) initiative is a certification programme established by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA).

WHS are outstanding locations where cetaceans ¹ (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.

Their aim is to preserve cetacean species and their habitats on a global scale so that they are around for generations to come.

Benefits of Whale Heritage Sites?


The World Cetacean Alliance believes the development of a network of WHS, designated against well-developed and robust criteria, can play an important role in distinguishing areas where cetaceans and people exist in harmony.

WHS will be confined to those places where human relationships with cetaceans are positive and not exploitative.

Complementary Site Networks

WHS are designed to complement other international site networks, such as marine protected areas and national parks. For that reason, WCA intends to work with other managing authorities for relevant site processes to ensure that WHS complement, support and enhance them.

We anticipate that future WHS areas will incorporate biocentric (biological and ecosystem centred) processes under development for international areas including IMMAs (Important Marine Mammal Areas), EBSAs (Ecologically or Biologically Sensitive Marine Areas), KBAs (Key Biodiversity Areas), ICAs (Important Cetacean Areas), designated cetacean critical habitats, and/or other schematics addressing cetaceans and their habitats.

¹ A total of 87 species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and an additional 38 subspecies or subpopulations are recognised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)..

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