Certification Process


How to Become a Certified Whale Heritage Site


Applicants must complete a five-tiered process to become certified: an initial online application, a candidacy review, optional technical advice and support, a final application and then, if successful, Whale Heritage Site designation.

Online initial application

The questionnaire provides the World Cetacean Alliance with some detailed information to enable us to better understand the strengths and areas for improvement of the proposed WHS.

Completing the questionnaire also ensures there are no fundamental issues that preclude Whale Heritage Site candidacy. Exclusion are rare but possible in situations where the coexistence of humans and cetaceans is considered harmful or compromises animal welfare.


Candidate review

A review of the initial application is carried out by WCA representatives to produce a summary report making recommendations for specific improvements prior to application for full Whale Heritage Site status. This usually takes about one month to complete.

Those sites that pass the candidate review are then accepted as a Whale Heritage Site candidate and will receive the candidate site logos, a license agreement and a Steering Committee document to complete.

It is essential that candidates send the completed Steering Committee document to the WCA at this point. This should include the names of individuals and organisations that are willing to participate in the committee to take the Whale Heritage Site application forward.

Optional technical advice

Once the Steering Committee document and the logo licence agreement have been received by the WCA, we offer two opportunities to gain advice to assist with the final application:

  1. General advice from the WCA Secretariat to discuss and advise on general areas for improvement and on how to submit an application with the greatest chance of success.
  1. Specialist advice from our technical team of experts on a specific criteria that the candidate site believes would be most beneficial.

Candidate Whale Heritage Site status will last for a maximum of three years before it is either revoked or renewed, or the site applies for full certification. During this period the site must submit annual reports summarising progress made towards full Whale Heritage Site status.

Final application

At this point, the site is invited to submit the following information to the WHS Independent Review Panel (IRP) by receiving a link to enable the completion of a detailed online survey which will include:

  1. Supporting evidence (including statistics relevant to livelihoods, cultural activities, tourists visiting the area, whale-watch tour operators, protected areas, etc.) to enable the IRP to build a picture of the site.
  2. Justification for the geographical delineation of the site.
  3. A detailed explanation of how the site achieves each of the criteria.

This information will be reviewed by the WCA Secretariat. All information will then be presented to the IRP for consideration. The IRP will evaluate the site against the criteria and either:

1. Award the site Whale Heritage Site status.

2.  Award the site Whale Heritage Site status upon the fulfillment of certain specific conditions.

3. Deny Whale Heritage Site status with recommendations.

Site designation

Time to celebrate! The site has now passed through the IRP and been designated as a Whale Heritage Site! Every site prepares and submits an annual report explaining how criteria are met. Each site is subject to IRP review every three years. Designated sites will also receive an on-site audit in the first three-year period, and once every three years after that. 

Upon request and submission of evidence that the criteria are no longer being met, a site may be investigated and/or downgraded. Certified Whale Heritage Sites must show continual improvement through annual reporting as a measure of their excellence.

Apply now!

To become a certified Whale heritage site apply here.