North East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea

Hamburg, Germany, 22-26 May 2023

The 10th IMMA Regional Workshop for the North East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea was held in person in Hamburg, Germany, with online access and participation also enabled. The IMMA Secretariat of the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force (the “Task Force”) collected 51 preliminary Areas of Interest (pAoI) from experts prior to the workshop. The total of 395 pAoI included many existing spatial and protected area designations in the region. At the close of the workshop, through the expert-based process utilising dedicated selection criteria, 36 candidate IMMAs (cIMMAs) were proposed, and sent for review. Six additional areas were advanced as AoI to go forward. Following independent review and consideration of how the criteria supported IMMA identification, 33 IMMAs were accepted for full status with 10 submissions being reserved as AoI, all of which now appear on the IMMA e-Atlas.

The North East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea (NEATLO) Region covers nearly a quarter of the Atlantic Ocean. Its rich biodiversity features migrating humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), blue (Balaenoptera musculus) and fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), several populations of killer whales (Orcinus orca) and Cuvier’s (Ziphius cavirostris) and other beaked whale (Mesoplodon) species in the Canary Islands, Azores and Bay of Biscay. Besides the prevalent common minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), common (Delphinus delphis), Risso’s (Grampus griseus) and common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), there are species endemic to the region including the Critically Endangered and decreasing Baltic Sea harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), the Endangered Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) and the Ladoga ringed seal (Pusa hispida ladogensis). The full list of marine mammal species can be seen the accounts of the region’s IMMAs accessed through the IMMA e-Atlas. Some of the region’s notable habitats for marine mammals include the Shetland and Orkney Islands and Outer Hebrides of Scotland, the Bay of Biscay, the Canary, Madeira and Azores islands, and the south and west coast of Ireland.

The workshop was attended by 53 experts and observers. Of the total, 14 participated in person throughout the week while 23 participated remotely. There were 7 participating members of the IMMA Secretariat in attendance and 1 remote. In summary, the participants came from the 12 European North East Atlantic-facing and Baltic Sea countries, as well as Morocco, making 13 in total. In some cases, the expert held a main residence in a country other than where the research was done, and a number of experts have worked in multiple areas in the region. The workshop was organised by the Task Force with support from a grant from the Water Revolution Foundation. Additional funds and hosting were provided by Peter Lürssen with substantial local support and hosting of events, courtesy of Vienna Eleuteri. OceanCare also provided valuable support.