IMMAs will be determined through an expert-led process involving the collation and assessment of evidence against a set of selection criteria. This process will aim to engage a wide range of representatives within the marine mammal science and conservation communities where much of the evidence necessary to assess IMMAs is held. Experts will be selected based on their region-specific knowledge, experience and skills relevant to the task of weighing evidence and applying the IMMA selection criteria. Potential sources of information will be actively sought in a process engaging with experts and other holders of evidence on a region-by-region basis. A three-stage process under the auspices of the Task Force will be used to identify, review, and accept or reject IMMA nominations, as follows:
Stage 1 – Nomination of initial ‘Areas of Interest’ or ‘AoIs’
The starting point in the process is the nomination of initial Areas of Interest (AoIs). Any expert or interested party may propose such an AoI following a simple, publicly available template, accompanied by supporting evidence, from the MMPATF website. AoI proposals will also be solicited publicly via a ‘call for information’ announcement made six months in advance of each regional expert IMMA workshop. Such proposals — along with existing marine mammal place-based conservation measures — will be evaluated at regional expert workshops. Participants who are invited to attend such workshops will also be encouraged to develop AoIs in advance of the workshops.
Stage 2 – Development of ‘candidate IMMAs’ or ‘cIMMAs’
A series of dedicated regional expert workshops will be held (c.f. the CBD EBSA workshops) under the guidance of the Task Force. Following the ‘calls for information’ in advance of each workshop, the workshops will review any external AoIs to determine if they meet one or more of the IMMA criteria, as well as proposals developed in advance by participants. Participants will use their regional knowledge to develop candidate IMMAs, based upon their review of AoIs submitted in advance or generated during the workshop itself.
Workshop agreed cIMMAs will be submitted to the Task Force following an agreed template that will (a) identify proposed boundaries, (b) provide a thorough rationale based upon the IMMA criteria, (c) summarise and provide access to the full supporting evidence and (d) identify any existing conservation measures within the areas proposed.
The information surrounding unsuccessful AoIs, and the reasons they were not taken further, will be held in confidence by the Task Force for future reference.
Stage 3 – Final review and IMMA Status Qualification
The Task Force will nominate an independent peer-review Panel consisting of three experts globally recognised as leaders in the field of marine mammal conservation. This Panel will review the cIMMAs, using an online system on a workshop-by-workshop basis, and decide whether they are accepted as IMMAs of global importance. They will also highlight synergies with external processes and criteria such as those for EBSAs and KBAs. Confirmed IMMAs and their associated documentation will be made publicly available on the Task Force website and attention will be drawn to them at the relevant national and international levels.
The information surrounding unsuccessful cIMMAs, and the reasons they were not taken further as IMMAs, will also be held in a publicly accessible manner by the Task Force for future reference.