IMMAs are identified through an expert-led process involving the collation and assessment of evidence against a set of selection criteria. This process (please refer to the Table at the end of this page), lasting approximately 10 months, aims 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. A four-stage process under the auspices of the Task Force is used to identify, review, and accept or reject IMMA nominations, as follows:
Stage 1 – Workshop preparation
The first stage, lasting about five months, is dedicated to the preparation of the expert workshop and includes the delimitation of the region, the preparation of maps, the identification of experts, the selection of the venue and of the workshop dates, the soliciting of submission of Areas of Interest (AoI) by the scientific community at large, the collation of the submitted AoIs and of an inventory of the available knowledge of marine mammal habitat in the considered region.
Stage 2 – Workshop
The workshop itself – the second stage – takes place during the 5th month, lasts five days, and is typically attended by 25-30 experts, tasked to examine the submitted AoIs (which can also be contributed by the convened experts during the workshop), and for AoIs that are judged to have strong enough evidence to fulfill the IMMA Criteria complete the necessary forms to convert them into candidate IMMAs (cIMMAs) that will be submitted for review.
Stage 3 – candidate IMMA (cIMMA) review
The third stage, lasting three months, consists in the submission of the cIMMAs to an independent Review Panel nominated by the Task Force. The Panel selects the cIMMAs that meet the Criteria and that rest on robust science, converting them in IMMAs. cIMMAs that need further revision, as well as AoI that could not be converted into cIMMAs, will be resubmitted at a successive workshop in the same region.
Stage 4 – Reporting and Communication
During Stage 4, spread out of the final four months of the period, the workshop report is drafted and issued (=posted on this website) in a preliminary version; after the results from the Review Panel become available, a final version incorporating all results is posted in substitution of the preliminary version. Corresponding news releases are also issued, and posted on the Task Force website and on social media. Finally the new IMMAs are added to the IMMA e-Atlas and online searchable IMMA database.