The latest IMMA regional workshop held in Dhofar, Oman (4-8 March 2019) has identified an unprecedented 55 candidate IMMAs and a further 13 Areas of Interest (AoI). The workshop hosted 38 marine mammal scientists and observers from 15 countries with the sole purpose of identifying important habitats for marine mammals in the western Indian Ocean and Arabian Seas.
The Oman workshop follows a handful of successful IMMA regional workshops organised by the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force and part-supported by GOBI, namely in the Mediterranean, Pacific Islands, Northeast Indian Ocean-Southeast Asian Seas and the Extended Southern Ocean. The Task Force has adopted as its mandate the mapping of habitats for the 130 species of marine mammals – cetaceans, pinnipeds, sirenians, otters and the polar bear – across the world ocean.
The candidate IMMAs will now be assessed by an independent review panel. Once assessed and approved, they will be placed on the IMMA e-Atlas, and can be used for conservation planning. Identified areas deemed to have insufficient supporting evidence will remain as AoI. Final results from the review panel are expected to be posted online later in 2019. The collective expertise, energy and commitment of the scientists gathered in the inspirational setting of Dhofar ensured that this technical and scientific exercise was a great success.