Marine mammals play a crucial role in marine ecosystem function and climate change resilience by sequestering carbon through the consumption of energy rich plankton and fish. They provide valuable ecosystem services such as ecotourism. Conserving marine mammals provides significant economic, social and cultural benefits to coastal communities.

Historically marine mammals have been severely impacted through human activity with hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries nearly driving many species to extinction. While international efforts to ban such activities has seen some populations recover from these dangerously low levels (e.g., in 2021, increase of 36% of baleen whale species1), this is not the case for all, with many populations remaining critically endangered. Whaling has been replaced by an abundance of anthropogenic hazards such as incidental by-catch, entanglement, ship strikes/collisions with ships, including in-direct habitat destruction, prey removal and noise pollution, as primary threats. To date, fishery by-catch continues to be a dominant conservation threat for many species.

With the continued threats to marine mammals, compounded by the detrimental effects of Climate Change, there is a real need for effective conservation measures. The diversity of threats faced by marine mammals requires an equally diverse suite of conservation tools. One of the most common approaches is the use of Marine Protected Areas (MPA). MPAs may be designed to protect marine mammals directly by targeting threats or indirectly through management goals that may reduce impacts. However, in many cases, the success of an MPA is drastically hindered through a lack of resources, capacity and/or knowledge to effectively implement management practices.

Bottlenose Dolphins in Iroise Marine Natural Park, France. © Fabien Boileau | Office Français de la Biodiversité
Bottlenose Dolphins in Iroise Marine Natural Park, France. © Fabien Boileau | Office Français de la Biodiversité

Marine Mammal Twinning & Marine Mammal Management Toolkit

To tackle these threats, to fill knowledge gaps and to empower practitioners, managers and policy makers to effectively conserve marine mammals, the Marine Mammal Twinning has designed and created a toolkit for the inclusion of marine mammals into MPA, and other, management plans on an international scale. In addition, the Marine Mammal Twinning aims to build the technical capacities of MPA managers by sharing knowledge, expertise and good practices as well as creating a network of peers, that could provide assistance to other MPA managers on an ad-hoc basis.

The Marine Mammal Twinning is one of three twinnings under the European Union-funded Ocean Governance Project and is currently supported by 13 partners that span regional and international contexts as well as academia and marine mammal sanctuaries. These partners are vital in the generation of the Marine Mammal Management Toolkit to ensure that the resources are developed through consultative processes while supporting a wide-reaching network.

In order to drive the strong management of marine mammals, the Marine Mammal Management Toolkit contains three key components: factsheetsSelf-Assessment Tool (SAT); and good practices.

To learn more about the Marine Mammal Twinning or to access the Marine Mammal Management Toolkit please visit www.marine-mammals.info. If you have valuable resources, suggestions for additional factsheets or would like to submit a good practice, please email ocean-governance@biodiv-conseil.fr. Queries to join the project as a partner will also be greatly welcomed along with feedback on the use of the SAT.