Critical habitats for marine mammals range from the tropics to the poles, extending from shallow estuarine areas to the high seas. Despite this wide range of habitats, the threats to the vital activities of marine mammals are often remarkably similar including commercial fishing, resource extraction activities such as oil and gas, commercial shipping, and water and noise pollution. The application of marine protected areas (MPAs) as an effective conservation tool for marine mammals has been demonstrated in a number of areas.
Yet marine mammal protected areas (MMPAs) are poorly represented in most countries and on the high seas. Moreover, there has been no mechanism by which the “community of practice” — comprised of managers, natural and social scientists, decision makers, and other stakeholders — could collaborate, share information and experiences, knowledge establishing, managing MPAs. Thus, in 2006, the International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas, ICMMPA, was established to promote marine mammal conservation through marine protected areas and other area-based management measures, informed by the best available science. A fundamental goal of the ICMMPA is to foster development, best practice management, and evaluation of MMPAs and other spatial tools, and ensure that marine mammals and their habitats are represented in relevant ocean conservation actions, planning initiatives, and international forums. To date, the primary activities of the ICMMPA have focused on networking and collaboration, communication, capacity-building, and training by organizing periodic MMPA conferences, and through the creation and dissemination of publications and knowledge products by the newly formed IUCN MMPA Task Force.
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Since its inception, the ICMMPA has been a unique forum to bring together MPA managers, decision-makers, scientists and other stakeholders to exchange information, strengthen partnerships, and figure out the way forward to improve MPA management and marine mammal conservation in the context of such areas.
Finding ways to solicit, listen to, evaluate and respond to the evolving needs of MMPA community in what we address in the future is a significant challenge. We will continue to focus our efforts on generating knowledge products through the MMPATF and to convene meaningful conferences to provide an effective forum for sharing information on approaches to marine mammal management and conservation.
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