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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...

To save river dolphins, we need to protect their freshwater homes

Further progress has been recently made in reaching the goal of identifying and protecting important habitat for river dolphins. Experts have agreed that a method currently used to identify areas of ocean that are important habitats for whales and oceanic dolphins can also be used to identify important habitats for aquatic mammals such as river dolphins living in freshwater environments. 

An ‘Important Marine Mammal Area’, or IMMA, is a discrete portion of marine mammal habitat identified and agreed by experts and has the potential to be managed for conservation.  IMMAs are an important conservation tool as they highlight actual habitats essential for marine mammal survival based on the best scientific information and expert advice. Once IMMAs are agreed, they become a focus for wildlife protection and conservation efforts.

In the future, experts will be able to adapt the IMMA tool for freshwater species such as river dolphins living in rivers, lakes and estuaries.  Identifying and sharing information about carefully selected IMMAs for river dolphins will help jump-start habitat protection efforts for these threatened species. IMMAs for river dolphins will help pave the way for the creation of networks of protected areas and conservation recommendations for them. 

Once IMMAs for river dolphins have been identified, any that are found to overlap with existing National Parks or other designated wildlife conservation sites will highlight opportunities to broaden the existing wildlife protective measures to include river dolphins. For example, an IMMA inside or overlapping a reserve set up to protect a bird species or an area of wetland important for birds could then have measures put in place to protect river dolphins and existing rangers and reserve managers could then extend their efforts to include river dolphin protection.

River dolphin populations in Asia and Latin America are threatened. One species, the baiji, or Chinese River dolphin has already gone extinct in recent years.  It is essential that we highlight important habitat areas for river dolphins to assist conservation efforts. Protecting the areas in nature that they need to survive is challenging but essential for their future survival. 

Please make a donation to help WDC protect endangered river dolphins. Thank you.

NOTES:

A scoping Workshop on IMMAs in Freshwater Environments took place during the 2017 Society for Marine Mammalogy’s biennial conference in Halifax, Canada.  The goal was to consider the identification and utilisation of the IMMA tool to enhance protection efforts for aquatic mammals in freshwater environments, including protected areas, key biodiversity areas and other area-based measures or instruments. 

The process to identify IMMAs within inland, freshwater-dominated environments will require further collaboration amongst experts during future IMMA freshwater workshops. For more information, see marinemammalhabitat.org (in the news and downloads sections).