Conserving marine mammal species urgently requires expanding from the IMMAs’ evidence-based approach to the implementation of place-based policies and actions that would eventually lead to the reduction of risks.
To this effect, the Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force is setting up regional groups in preparation for IMMA and other potential Task Force workshops over the next years, as well as for follow-up actions from the regional IMMA workshops.
This is seen as an evolving role of the Task Force with the fundamental task and mandate of serving its goals and needs in each region, specifically related to the implementation of conservation measures following on from the selection of IMMAs in each region.
To facilitate this process, a permanent regional community of practice of place-based marine mammal experts is created as a follow-up to each regional IMMA workshop, under the facilitation of a regional co-ordinator, tasked to:
assemble the regional group by co-opting and involving the region’s marine mammal place-based conservation experts, covering all relevant species, subregions and other aspects as needed (various threat experts, MPA and MSP experts, etc.), and maintaining the group’s membership list (names, contact details and specialties);
prepare for initial and follow-up regional workshops by encouraging the expert group to submit areas of interest (AoI) and other information under the guidance of the IMMA Coordinator (IMMA Secretariat);
assist in logistical and other support for regional IMMA workshops and follow-up actions, such as the drafting and approval of informative IMMA Factsheets made in collaboration with the IMMA Secretariat;
support the transition from science to management within IMMAs by addressing consideration and uptake of IMMAs by regional stakeholders, e.g., during relevant marine spatial planning or by examining the need for establishing marine mammal protected areas ( MMPAs);
continue to collect ecological knowledge on the region’s marine mammals during the interim period following the initial IMMA workshop, before the eventual follow-up workshop, by providing guidance for the modification of existing IMMAs and/or the submission of new AoI, as appropriate;
implement, to the extent possible, an early warning system ( EWS) to help detect arising changes in the conservation status of the region’s marine mammals, warranting management and conservation attention or intervention; and
ensure that all the relevant occurrence data deriving from the workshops are contributed to global databases (such as OBIS SEAMAP).
Participants at each regional workshop and those contributing supporting data form the nucleus of the regional expert group. The regional co-ordinator is appointed by the Task Force chairs from within the group, and included amongst the Task Force members.
The regional co-ordinator is responsible for maintaining and expanding the group, as needed, and to conduct actions in support of the envisioned tasks in collaboration with the Task Force and with the relevant IUCN SSC Specialist Groups.
The regions correspond to the boundaries chosen by each regional workshop which roughly correspond to the 18 IUCN Marine Regions.
It is anticipated that every 2-3 years the Task Force Regional Co-ordinators will meet at the International Conference for Marine Mammal Protected Areas (ICMMPA), or at the IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC), the International Marine Protected Area Congress (IMPAC), the Society for Marine Mammals (SMM) Biennial, as well as other regional marine mammal meetings.