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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
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Port River dolphins

New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales hunted every year

When you hear the words ‘dolphin hunts’ it’s likely that you think of Japan or...

Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

Iceland’s commercial hunt of minke whales has ended for this year. The common minke whale is the...

Icelandic whalers breach international law and kill iconic, protected whale by mistake

Icelandic whalers out hunting fin whales for the first time in three years appear to...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...

End the whale hunts! Icelandic fin whaler isolated as public mood shifts

Here’s a sight I hoped never again to witness. A boat being scrubbed and repainted...

Australian Government to block Japanese whaling proposal

Japanese Government officials have reportedly confirmed that they will propose the resumption of commercial whaling...

Pregnant whales once again a target for Japanese whalers

Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during the 2017/18 austral summer have revealed that...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...

SOS alert for whales off Norway!

I have to admit to bitter disappointment when I arrived in Tromsø, northern Norway, a...

Norway's whaling season begins

April 1st saw the start of the whaling season in Norway. Despite a widely-accepted international moratorium...

Norway increases whaling quota despite declining demand

Norway's government has announced an increase in the number of minke whales that can be...

Workshop puts marine mammal habitats on the map with a new tool co-developed by WDC

Next week, from October 24-28, the first workshop to implement a new tool for conservation — Important Marine Mammal Areas, or IMMAs — convenes in Chania, Greece. The workshop, sponsored by the MAVA Foundation, has been organized by the IUCN WCPA-SSC Marine Mammal Protected Areas (MMPAs) Task Force, who have devised this new tool. It is a collaboration with the Tethys Research Institute, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS). The workshop brings together a body of experts from almost every Mediterranean country who will work together to delineate Mediterranean habitats important to marine mammals, including cetaceans and pinnipeds.

The Chania workshop will cover the Mediterranean Sea while future planned meetings will be held to cover the southern oceans, including separate workshops for the South Pacific, the Northeast Indian Ocean, the Northwest Indian Ocean, the Southeast Pacific and the waters of Australia-New Zealand and adjacent Oceania waters. In each region, masses of data for each marine mammal species along with oceanographic and environmental variables will be gathered in advance of the meeting of some 20 to 35 experts.

“IMMAs will act as a red flag that here are important areas for marine mammals,” says Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, co-chair of the MMPAs Task Force and President of Tethys Research Institute. “IMMAs are not MPAs, but they may lead to MPAs, ship or noise directives, and other conservation outcomes. But IMMAs also function as valuable indicators of health in the marine environment. They point to the location of umbrella species for protecting biodiversity, and can be used to monitor climate change.”

Michael J. Tetley, IMMA coordinator, has been handling the masses of data layers from experts as well as published materials, while IMMA researcher Simone Panigada has been spearheading data gap analysis. IMMA researcher Kristin Kaschner is also contributing her mapping work and other analyses to the project.

Following the workshop, an independent panel, headed by Randall R. Reeves, IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group chair, will be convened to evaluate the candidate IMMAs (cIMMAs). Only then will the cIMMAs be put on the map as IMMAs.

While the IMMA workshop process will select areas important to the 140 species of marine mammals, it also integrates with existing conservation measures and will help in the selection of ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs) as devised by the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as key biodiversity areas (KBAs) from IUCN.

“We need to know where marine mammals and other species live if we’re going to have the chance to protect their habitats,” adds Erich Hoyt, Research Fellow with Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Task Force co-chair. “The urgency for doing this is that the ocean is being heavily fished and developed by industry. More than 100 countries are planning to undertake marine spatial planning (MSP) to divide up their national waters. At the same time, the spotlight is on the high seas with industry moving offshore and UN deliberations under way to come up with a plan for managing international waters—the global commons. In future, the Task Force plans to organize and raise funds to map the entire ocean for marine mammal habitats.”

Besides the MAVA foundation’s support of the Mediterranean workshop, Task Force sponsors for the worldwide IMMA project include Tethys Research Institute, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas, Animal Welfare Institute, Eulabor Institute, and the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI) and the German government’s International Climate Initiative (IKI).

For more information about the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force and to download the most recent marine mammal poster map, see marinemammalhabitat.org.