Looking beyond the horizon: An early warning system to keep marine mammal information relevant for conservation

Last modified: 
December 13, 2019 - 12:03pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2019
Date published: 10/2019
Authors: Tundi Agardy, Mary Cody, Sean Hastings, Erich Hoyt, Anne Nelson, Michael Tetley, Giuseppe Di Sciara
Journal title: Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Volume: 29
Issue: S2
Pages: 71 - 83
ISSN: 1052-7613
  1. Important marine mammal areas (IMMAs) are discrete portions of habitat, important to marine mammal species, that have the potential to be delineated and managed for conservation. Although IMMAs are not a blueprint for marine protected areas or other conservation designations, they are useful for providing a foundation for marine spatial planning and systematic conservation planning that can then lead to protected areas or special spatial regulations. To be most useful for supporting management and conservation, however, the information coming out of IMMAs needs to reflect current conditions.
  2. An ‘early warning system’ is proposed with a generic set of indicators to flag when marine mammal species in IMMAs require management interventions due to changing distributions or decreasing populations. Rather than signifying that quantitative thresholds have been reached, these indicators comprise alerting information derived from visual or acoustic census, satellite imagery analysis, whale‐watching logs, or increases in mortality reported by stranding networks that can trigger additional targeted research.
  3. Although it is possible that in some regions data will be sufficient to provide quantifiable indicators, the system is meant to rely on existing data sources, and be adaptable to the circumstances of each region.
  4. Regional expert groups can utilize early warning system information and feed it into IMMA‐related spatial planning in two ways: by nominating additional areas of interest, and by providing a scientific rationale for revising IMMA boundaries, to be considered at the next decadal IMMA regional expert workshop.
  5. IMMA‐driven consolidation of information that is as current as possible will prove valuable for enhancing regional cooperation to conserve marine mammals, and will be useful as countries implement new protected areas to conserve marine mammals and other marine biodiversity.
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