The Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMA) programme aims to support the restoration of the balance of life in the ocean by identifying the most important marine habitats for marine mammals which can then be prioritised for conservation actions. IMMAs are identified on the basis of four main scientific criteria:
- species or population vulnerability,
- distribution and abundance,
- key life cycle activities,
- special attributes.
Crucially, the decision process is entirely biocentric, independent of any political and socioeconomic pressure or concern.
Once an area has been identified as an IMMA, it is included in a dedicated e-Atlas and searchable database, offering actionable knowledge for governments and other regulatory bodies to implement marine conservation measures at national, regional and global levels. Following their identification, IMMAs may result in the creation of marine protected areas, mitigation measures through marine spatial planning or other zoning measures, opportunities for raising public awareness, or ways to protect special places.
The first IMMAs started to be placed on the global map in 2016 and, already, IMMAs have been used by governments and a variety of marine stakeholders around the world to inform conservation programmes and strategies, resulting in more sustainable ocean use. Examples include shaping and leading to protected areas in Vietnam and Bangladesh, and relinquishing oil and gas development in key dugong habitat in Mozambique.
In addition, information from the IMMA programme can be used to adjust sailing routes and behaviour at sea. Notably, IMMAs are being used by the International Whaling Commission to address the threat to whales derived by ship strikes, and by the U.S. Navy as Offshore Biologically Important Areas relevant to the mitigation of disturbance and mortality from sonar testing.
Our crowdfunding campaign is an opportunity for the superyacht community – companies, professionals, owners and charterers alike – to take on a stewardship role of the oceans. Collectively, we can support the important work of the IMMA programme and help protect our oceans.