Important Marine Mammal Areas Workshop for the North East Atlantic
This week in Hamburg the IWDG attended in person (Patrick Lyne) and online (Simon Berrow) the Important Marine Mammals Area (IMMA) workshop for the North East Atlantic in Hamburg, Germany. The workshop was organised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and IMMAs are important precursors of the designation of Marine Protected Areas (https://www.marinemammalhabitat.org/immas).
Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) are defined as discrete portions of habitat, important to marine mammal species, that have the potential to be delineated and managed for conservation. IMMAs consist of areas that may merit place-based protection and/or monitoring. ‘Important’ in the context of the IMMA classification refers to any perceivable value, which extends to the marine mammals within the IMMA, to improve the conservation status of those species or populations.
IMMA is a process which uses an evidence based approach to identify important habitats for marine mammals (cetaceans and seals) which are peer-reviewed. Designation as an IMMA builds evidence and support for areas to become full Marine Protected Areas under different legislation and criteria.
The purpose of the workshop was to identify areas of the North East Atlantic important for the conservation of marine mammals and designate areas as IMMAs to highlight the importance of conservation in this locations. The process started by selecting sub-regions and appointing groups to work on each sub-region.
The IMMA list was whittled down to those with sufficient data to those with the greatest chance of progressing to full designation. Offshore areas in the High Seas and on the Rockall Bank were not progressed largely due to a lack of sufficient data to support the cases. Though this points a clear direction for future research requirements.
The Preliminary map of 36 candidate IMMAs in orange and 7 Areas of Interest in blue. Prior to the workshop proposals were submitted for Areas of Interest. Thirty Six of these were progressed by the working groups to be submitted as candidate IMMAs.
These were now go to a review panel of research peers and these will most likely request more information on some submissions in September or simply accept or reject cIMMA submissions. Area boundaries can be changed by the review panel as well so the map may change. Once approved which can be expected in the New Year Ireland and the rest of the European Atlantic will it is hoped have a host of areas designated as important for marine mammals.
This has no immediate effect on regulation, as the IMMA designation is not a regulatory one but it will have gone through a peer review process and has international recognition and should result in better conservation measures.