World Commission on Protected Areas

Marine Mammal Protected Areas

IUCN WCPA/SSC Joint Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force
© 2016 by Tatiana Ivkovich/ Far East Russia Orca Project (Whale and Dolphin Conservation). Killer whale habitat in southeast Kamchatka EBSA (ecologically or biologically significant area), selected by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) — an area

IUCN WCPA/SSC Task Force Group Leaders

Erich HOYT

Erich Hoyt, co-chair, IUCN Joint WCPASSC Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force





Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, co-chair, IUCN Joint WCPA/SSC Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force

Twitter: @ErichHoyt
Twitter: @Schizzo48

IUCN WCPA/SSC Marine Mammals Task Force TOR 2017-2020

The creation of the IUCN Joint SSC/WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force (MMPAs Task Force) was formally announced in 2013 in Marseilles, France, at the International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC3).

The MMPAs Task Force was developed through the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and Species Survival Commission (SSC), and through the International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (ICMMPA) to give a stronger voice to marine mammal needs within IUCN and to serve the larger marine mammal protected area community of practice. In addition, the ICMMPA’s two seminal global conferences (Hawaii, 2009; Martinique, 2011) laid the groundwork for the structure and mission of the Task Force, and two workshops at the third conference (ICMMPA3, Adelaide, Australia, 2014) and another for the planned fourth conference (ICMMPA4, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Nov. 2016) have defined the future work of the Task Force.


a) facilitating mechanisms by which this “community of practice” can collaborate, share information and experience, access and disseminate knowledge and tools for establishing, monitoring, and managing marine mammal protected areas (MMPA) and promote effective spatial solutions and best practices for marine mammal conservation;

b) bolstering capacity within the MMPA community by exposing it to state-of-the-art tools from the wider MPA and place-based conservation world;

c) enabling the implementation of global MPA targets and agreements; and

d) enhancing opportunities for cooperation, communication, exposure of related products and expertise to a farwider audience.© 2014 by Joan Gonzalvo/Tethys Research Institute. Mediterranean monk seal in Greece residing in an area of interest (AoI) for the new conservation tool of Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs).

Determining Important Marine Mammal Areas—IMMAs— in the World’s Oceans

In 2016-2019, the MMPAs Task Force is rolling out a tool to apply criteria to identify and potentially protect marine mammal habitats. This tool—developed through workshops and extensive scientific and public consultation—is called “Important Marine Mammal Areas”, or IMMAs. 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 consist of areas that deserve space-based protection and can be seen as a potential marine mammal layer for consideration by governments, intergovernmental organisations, conservation groups, and the general public.

The IMMA tool will bring a standardized process to the preparation of data for:

• identification of IUCN marine key biodiversity areas (KBAs), as part of speices and ecosystem conservation in national waters and on the high seas,

• the selection of MPAs and MPA networks as well as marine mammal habitat zones within existing MPAs,

• the CBD process to identify ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs), mainly on the high seas,

• marine spatial planning (MSP), a process for allocating spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological and economic objectives, which is being adopted over the next few years by more than 90 governments of the world, and

• the identification of areas where marine mammals are threatened by ship strike or noise, useful for International Maritime Organisation (IMO) directives and particularly sensitive sea areas (PSSAs).

The IMMA tool mirrors the Important Bird Area (IBA) approach adopted by BirdLife some years ago which has been successful in terms of ensuring the consistent and comprehensive identification of critical bird habitats on land and at sea.

Go to the IUCN MMPA TASK FORCE website for the Joint statement about IMMAs and KBAs from IUCN WCPA/SSC Joint Task Forces on Marine Mammal Protected Areas and Biodiversity and Protected Areas, as well as for the MMPAs Task Force Mission Statement and further Information about Task Force workshops, meetings and other news.

Information about conferences and proceedings from the International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (ICMMPA)

A list of members of the IUCN WCPA/SSC Joint Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force can be found here.  Membership is kept at approximately 20-30 members and reviewed annually.


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