WHAT are ICAs and WHY designate them?

Important Cetacean Areas (ICAs) are discrete areas of ocean that are of importance to cetaceans for feeding, breeding and migration activities.


ICAs are not species distribution maps, as whales are highly mobile and far ranging, rather they are definable areas of recurring concentrations of whales.


ICAs are identified using standardized, quantitative and scientifically agreed upon criteria.

Important Cetacean Areas are

Sites of importance to international, national and regional populations of whales and dolphins.

A result – a product – of scientific research and/or accumulated local knowledge that indicates the site meets or exceeds internationally accepted criteria.

Assigned by biologists, naturalists or others with specialized knowledge.

A reflection of current knowledge – designation or boundaries may change as our knowledge becomes more complete, or whale abundance and behavior changes.

Not a marine protected area, park, reserve or sanctuary – although they could be any of these. There are no regulations or restrictions attached to an ICA designation, although an increased awareness of the whales and their needs is presumed.


Why Designate an ICA?

They are proactive – they are not a reaction to a specific activity or development proposal.

ICA designation provides, at a glance, where human activity overlaps with areas important to whales. They provide immediate access to information that is the basis for this assessment.

ICAs provide a source of baseline information for land-use and marine planning, pollution response, and self-management of industry.

They help direct research, suggesting study sites where gaps exist in our knowledge.

Photo credit: Jim Darling



This is a project of Pacific WildLife Foundation, 2013.

Contact us with comments at: ica@pwlf.org

Photo credits