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Australia key to marine mammal conservation

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

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Australian waters have been recognised as key habitats for the future survival of marine mammals.

In a week-long workshop held in Perth earlier this year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force identified 45 candidate Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMA) in the Australian, New Zealand and South East Indian Ocean region.

Of these, 31 of the 45 areas were in Australian waters.

The Task Force engaged 31 scientists mainly from Australia and New Zealand to participate in the process.

One of the Task Force’s regional coordinator, ECU’s Associate Professor Chandra Salgado Kent, said identifying and protecting these marine areas could safeguard the future conservation of many vulnerable marine mammals.

"We earmarked a variety of habitats that were crucial to marine mammal survival," Professor Salgado Kent said.

"Coastal areas that are important for Australian sea lions, Australian humpback dolphins and snubfin dolphins were included, right through to deep underwater canyon habitats that are important for vulnerable sperm whales and beaked whales."

"The migratory paths for endangered blue and southern right whales were also identified as areas needing protection."

"Although we focused on the protection of key marine mammal species, this will also provide an umbrella for the protection of many other species through protection of their habitats."

The candidate IMMAs now go through a stringent scientific process of being assessed by an independent international review panel for meeting the criteria.

These IMMAs are used to inform government to plan for the development of future Marine Protected Areas, as well as for monitoring, marine spatial planning and other conservation measures.

IUCN’s Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force co-chair Erich Hoyt said this workshop was an important step in creating a global picture of important marine mammal areas: "After these IMMAs are finalised they will be put on the IMMA e-Atlas, adding to 114 existing IMMAs from previous workshops in the South Pacific and Indian oceans and in the Mediterranean."

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