Wallis and Futuna IMMA

Size in Square Kilometres

177,463 km2

Qualifying Species and Criteria

Sperm whale – Physeter macrocephalus

Criterion A

Longman’s beaked whale – Indopacetus pacificus

Criterion B(2)

Melon-headed whale – Peponocephala electra

Criterion B(2)

Spinner dolphin – Stenella longirostris

Criterion B(2)

Pantropical spotted dolphin –Stenella attenuata

Criterion B(2)


Marine Mammal Diversity

Criterion D (2)

Megaptera novaeangliae, Tursiops truncatus, Steno bredanensis, Grampus griseus, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Pseudorca crassidens, Mesoplodon densirostris, Orcinus orca, Kogia spp.



The Wallis and Futuna IMMA is located around the Wallis and Futuna Islands, and extends near to the limits of the 3000m depth contour. Little was known about the marine mammals in this remote area until the large aerial survey (REMMOA) that was conducted between the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 covering almost all of the EEZ of this region. Cetaceans were evenly distributed throughout the area, with a high diversity of 15 species recorded. Small Delphininae (Stenella spp.) and large groups of melon-headed whales were particularly abundant. Several sightings of Longman’s beaked whales (Indopacetus pacificus) were also recorded during this survey, in addition to Kogia spp. Risso’s (Grampus griseus), and common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).  Southern hemisphere humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are also encountered in the area.

Description of Qualifying Criteria

Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability

Sperm whale occurrence in the waters of Wallis and Futuna seems ancient, with probable passage of whalers. The lack of effort, the small size of the islands among this large area of open waters could explain the small amount of evidence of their occurrence, with only two individuals observed during the REMMOA survey (Van Canneyt et al, 2015) and one stranding in 2015 (Service de environment Wallis and Futuna, pers.com). Sperm whales are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN red list.

The sighting of humpback whales denotes the use of these waters by individuals belonging to the Oceania subpopulation (classified as Endangered by IUCN, Childerhouse et al. 2009).

Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance

Sub-criterion B2: Aggregations

Important species recorded in relatively high numbers in this IMMA include Longman’s beaked whales (Indopacetus pacificus) one of the world’s most poorly known whales.  During surveys six groups were encountered on effort, widely distributed in the area, totalling 21 individuals, plus four individuals encountered during off effort transit. Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) was previously reported from boat surveys in the area (Doremus et al., 2010) and identified from a stranding in December 2012, and a Blainville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) was stranded in 2019 (Service de environment Wallis and Futuna, pers.com).

Melon-headed whales or possible pygmy killer whales (identification not confirmed) were estimated using Conventional Distance Sampling (without availability and perception bias correction) over the entire EEZ as tens of thousands of individuals (95%CI: 1600 – 53,000) with estimated group sizes of 1 – 200 individuals (Laran et al., 2016). Pantropical spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins were estimated at ~10,000 individuals (95%CI: 2500-37,000) and mainly distributed in the north of the IMMA. Common bottlenose dolphins (and possible unidentified rough-toothed or Fraser’s dolphins) were estimated at 4,200 individuals (800- 23,000) and mainly distributed west of Futuna Island in the shallowest waters, but rough-toothed dolphins were only identified once. About 2,000 Risso’s dolphins (95%CI: 2000-15,500) were estimated, and 800 (95%CI: 200-3000) short-finned pilot whale, false killer whale, and killer whales (only seen once). Several hundreds of beaked whales were estimated. Pygmy or dwarf sperm whales were encountered between 12°S and 14°S of latitude, with a relative abundance (uncorrected for bias) estimated at ~600 individuals (95%CI: 150-2100; Laran et al., 2016).

Criterion D: Special Attributes

Sub-criterion D2: Diversity

The Wallis and Futuna waters contains a remarkable diversity of cetaceans. A total of sixteen species have been confirmed in the area (Laran et al, submitted), with a quite broad distribution throughout the EEZ (Figure 2). Relative abundance was estimated for several species from the REMMOA survey and corrected for availability bias with a global cetacean abundance estimated to 0.18 individuals per km² and a good representation of small Delphininae (Stenella spp.), Globicephalinae subfamilies (Figure 4) a (Laran et al., 2023).

Supporting Information

Childerhouse, S., Jackson, J., Baker, C.S., Gales, N., Clapham, P.J., Brownell Jr., R.L. (2009) Megaptera novaeangliae (Oceania subpopulation). In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. www.iucnredlist.org.

Dorémus, G., Perri, M., Van Canneyt, O., and Ridoux, V. (2010). “Echantillonnage visuel des mammifères et oiseaux marins dans la ZEE de Wallis & Futuna sur la campagne FUTUNA”, in: Rapport de campagne de l’Observatoire PELAGIS pour l’Agence des Aires Marines Protégées).

Dorémus, G., Laran, S., Van Canneyt, O., Bosserelle, P., Watremez, P., Ridoux, V., 2016. New insight on Marine Mammals of the Southwest Pacific ocean: Part II – Large aerial survey (REMMOA) over the Wallis & Futuna EEZ. 30th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society, Funchal, Portugal.

Laran, S., Hamani, V., Authier, M., Dorémus, G., Van Canneyt, O., Ridoux, V., and Watremez, P. (2016). Distribution et abondance de la mégafaune marine dans le sud-ouest du Pacifique. Campagne REMMOA – Nouvelle-Calédonie et Wallis et Futuna. Rapport final pour l’Agence des aires marines protégées. 105 pp.

Laran, S., O. Van Canneyt, G. Dorémus, C. Garrigue, T. Berr, H. Bourgogne, M. Genu, J. Spitz, and V. Ridoux. 2023. Who lives in the open sea? Distribution and densities of surfacing marine megafauna in three territories from the southwestern Pacific region (New Caledonia, Wallis-Futuna and French Polynesia). Pacific Conservation Biology.

Miller, C. (2009). “Current state of knowledge of cetacean threats, diversity and habitats in the pacific islands region 2009 revision. ” in: A report by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society for the second meeting of the signatories to the memorandum of understanding for the conservation of cetaceans and their habitats in the Pacific Islands region).

Van Canneyt, O., Dorémus, G., Laran, S., Ridoux, V., Watremez, P., 2015. REMMOA Nouvelle-Calédonie Wallis et Futuna: Rapport de campagne  Rapport intermédiaire pour l’Agence des Aires Marines Protégées, p. 65 pp.


Download the full account of the Wallis and Futuna IMMA using the Fact Sheet button below:

To make a request to download the GIS Layer (shapefile) for the Wallis and Futuna IMMA please complete the following Contact Form:

    * Required fields

    Please read the User Licence Agreement and IMMA Layer Metadata Description