The sixth Important Marine Mammal Areas workshop, was held in Perth Australia from 10th-14th February 2020. The intensive workshop hosted 31 marine mammal scientists and observers from 6 countries to map the important habitats for marine mammals in the waters of Australia, New Zealand and the South East Indian Ocean. A total of 45 candidate important marine mammal areas, or cIMMAs, were identified, along with 1 area of interest (AoI) which will be retained as a potential future IMMA pending further research. A total of 14 cIMMAs are in New Zealand waters, and 31 in Australian waters. Several of the cIMMAs extend well into offshore high seas, outside of the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The areas nominated feature nearshore habitat for most of the world’s remaining dugong; Australian humpback and snubfin dolphins, only recently recognised as species; as well as deep canyons with vulnerable sperm, pygmy sperm whales, and endangered blue and pygmy blue whales. Also living in Australia and covered by the cIMMA proposals are two species of bottlenose dolphins and the endangered Australian sea lion. New Zealand has the world’s only population of the endangered Hector’s dolphin as well as its subspecies Maui dolphin, and many rare beaked whale species.
The candidate IMMAs now go to an independent review panel. If approved, they will be placed on the IMMA e-Atlas, and can be used for conservation planning. Those without sufficient evidence will remain as cIMMAs or revert to AoI. Final results from the panel are expected to be posted online later in 2020.
In addition to the cIMMAs identified, potentially 25 of the cIMMAs may qualify as IUCN key biodiversity areas (KBAs). KBAs are a parallel process for identifying areas of international importance in terms of biodiversity conservation for all species using globally standardised criteria.