ORCA expertise called on to help create new marine protected areas.


Away from the ships decks and bridges, ORCA is increasingly making its presence felt at important international forums where our growing body of evidence is contributing to high-level decision making.

One of these is an initiative of the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force called Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAS for short). These are described as “..discrete portions of habitat, important to marine mammal species, that have the potential to be delineated and managed for conservation..”.

The ongoing objective is that IMMAs will be identified through a consistent expert process, independent of any political and socio-economic concerns, and will provide a compelling and real-time information flow about marine mammals into existing national and international conservation tools with respect to marine protected areas.

And so it was that last week, ORCA was invited to the 10th IMMA workshop on the North East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea in Hamburg, in order to brief 53 delegates from 12 countries on the sightings data we have been collecting in the North Sea, Celtic Seas and western approaches, and two regions in the Bay of Biscay. ORCAs Lucy Babey and Anna Bunney were asked to attend as expert participants to evaluate the 395 preliminary Areas of Interest submitted and draft compelling evidence for the submission of Candidate IMMAs. As a result, 36 newly identified areas in the North East Atlantic will now be put forward as candidates for IMMA status and, including the four covered by our sightings data.

Lucy Babey, Director of Programmes at ORCA said; “This has been a great result, not just for ORCA but for the whales and dolphins we care about so much. It has also been an active demonstration of the power of citizen-science. This evidence would not have existed without the army of volunteers and Ocean Conservationists that ORCA is so fortunate to have. It is a tangible reminder that people from all walks of life have the power to bring about change through actively supporting our efforts.