New ‘Important Marine Mammal Areas’ Identified

A total of 158 Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) have now been identified by the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force.  The process of identifying such sites has now been conducted for more than a third of the world’s ocean area, including the Indian Ocean, South Pacific, Mediterranean Sea and Southern Ocean as well as SE Asia waters.


The IMMAs, candidate IMMAs (cIMMAs) and Areas of Interest (AoIs) are displayed online on the IMMA e-Atlas.  A searchable database allows for targeted searching for IMMAs by name, country (EEZ) or marine mammal species.  Also it is possible to download the spatial GIS layers of all IMMAs from the website.


The Task Force plans to organise a workshop to identify IMMAs in the southeastern temperate and tropical Pacific Ocean in the near future.

Evaluation of Vessel Traffic in IMMAs

A new report was just released that features an analysis of vessel traffic in 114 IMMAs around the world.  This is the result of a collaboration between WWF, the IUCN MMPATF, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and Oceanmind.

The report features detailed information for each of the 114 individual IMMAs identified as of September 2019, including:

  • Tables and graphs breaking down monthly densities of vessel traffic, per vessel category, based on unique vessels in each IMMA; and
  • ‘Heat maps’ for each IMMA based on the density of AIS signals transmitted by all vessels in the specific IMMA over the course of the year.

The report also includes a table ranking the top 10 IMMAs in terms of the risk of ship strike and the risk of cetacean bycatch based on the AIS data, and two case studies (the Mascarene Islands and the Savu Sea) that examine in greater detail the patterns of vessel traffic in relation to the occurrence of cetaceans.

The final report can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking on the links below:

IUCN Letter expressing concern regarding the impact of the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridges Project on Critically Endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the Philippines


In late August 2020, Bruno Oberle, Director General of IUCN, and Jon Paul Rodriguez, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, signed a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Manila, Philippines expressing concern about the likely impacts of the proposed Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridges project on the Critically Endangered population of Irrawaddy dolphins in the Guimaras and Iloilo Straits.


Abundance of this population is estimated as only 10-30 individuals (Dolar et al. 2018).  The proposed entrances onto and exits from the bridge are in areas with relatively high densities of dolphins, and it is feared that the construction and operation noise will degrade this Important Marine Mammal Area.


To read the letter in full, click here.

3 Updated Cetacean Red List Assessments Published in 2020 So Far

Assessments or reassessments of 3 cetacean species, subspecies or populations were published on the IUCN Red List in early 2020. This is in addition to the 6 published in December 2019, 2 published in July 2019, 5 published in March 2019, 35 published in November 2018, 10 in July 2018, and 19 in November 2017. A total of 80 updated or new cetacean assessments have now been published in the last 2 ½ years.


The updated assessments were of the North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) which was uplisted from Endangered to Critically Endangered, a new listing of the Gulf of Corinth subpopulation of Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis) also Critically Endangered and an updated listing for the Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) which remains Least Concern (Table 1). Work on the remaining cetacean species that require updating, primarily the beaked whales, is near completion, and we expect most of them to be published in late 2020.


Table 1 – Summary of updated assessments and new assessments published in the 2020-2 edition of the Red List. (NT = Near Threatened, DD = Data Deficient, CR = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, LC = Least Concern).

# Species/Subspecies Common name Taxonomic level Category Status change
1 Eubalaena glacialis North Atlantic Right Whale Species (global) CR EN -> CR
2 Delphinus delphis Common Dolphin, Gulf of Corinth Subpopulation CR New listing
3 Phocoena phocoena Harbour Porpoise Species (global) LC No change


The Red List status and documentation for 89 (of the 91 currently recognised) cetacean species as well as 42 subspecies or subpopulations can be found on the IUCN Red List website (  Of the 89 species, 30% are assigned to a threatened category (i.e. CR, EN, VU, NT) and 29% are considered DD (Table 2) although ongoing reassessments of Data Deficient species are likely to result in some of them being reclassified in the near future. It should also be emphasized that there is strong interest in completing additional assessments of subpopulations that are known or thought to be at higher risk than the species as a whole (e.g. Killer Whales, Belugas, Dusky Dolphins).


Table 2. Summary information on Red List status as of July 2020.

Category Species Subspecies/subpopulations Total
Critically Endangered 4 18 22
Endangered 9 11 20
Vulnerable 7 10 17
Near Threatened 7 0 7
Least Concern 36 0 36
Data Deficient 26 3 29
Total 89 42 131