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Important Marine Mammal Areas proposed for Mediterranean

The first ever workshop to define Important Marine Mammal Areas — IMMAs — concluded last week in Chania, Greece with the identification of 41 candidate IMMAs (cIMMAs) in the Mediterranean region.

They range in size from 50 km2 for species such as the Mediterranean monk seal to over 134,000 km2 across the Ligurian Sea and Northwest Mediterranean for fin and sperm whales. Nine marine mammal species were proposed for cIMMAs from a total of 11 being evaluated by the participating experts. Some cIMMAs feature multiple species of marine mammals. The 5-day workshop (24-28 October) was organised by the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force and sponsored by the MAVA Foundation. 

Candidate IMMAs for the Mediterranean region

IMMAs are a new tool for conservation, modelled after the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) concept. IMMAs are defined as discrete portions of habitat, important to marine mammal species, that have the potential to be delineated and managed for conservation. IMMAs are an advisory expert-based classification, and have no legal standing as MPAs but are intended to be used in conservation planning by governments, intergovernmental organisations, conservation groups, and the general public.

The development of a network of IMMAs in the Indian and South Pacific oceans is a key component of the GOBI work funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI). Led by GOBI partner Tethys Research Institute, the first of a series of five expert IMMA workshops will take place in Samoa in March 2017, covering the vast South Pacific. From 2018-2021, further workshops will bring together marine mammal experts from the Northeast Indian Ocean, the Northwest Indian Ocean, the Southeast Pacific and the waters of Australia-New Zealand and adjacent Oceania waters.

For the full article about the Mediterranean IMMA workshop, please visit the IUCN Marine Mammal Task Force website.

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