On 3-5 May 2022, the Ocean Governance project held the first Marine Mammals Twinning partners’ workshop of the year, in Cambridge, England.

The more than 15 workshop participants, joining either in-person or online, came from the USA, Bermuda, Cabo Verde, Canada, France and the United Kingdom, among others, came to recap what has been achieved and accomplished so far in the framework of Marine Mammals Twinning, and to set priorities for 2022. The accessibility of the Self-Assessment Tool and more widespread use of the toolkit were further topics at the centre of discussion.

The workshop started with introductions from all partners and guests, including presentations on the current and future management practices for marine mammals within their organisations, and national and regional contexts. Special attention was given to the growing threats to marine mammals in each particular context.

In line with the 2022 Plan of Action, the workshop discussed the development of a ‘light’ version of the Self-Assessment Tool (“SAT-LITE”). In smaller break-out groups, the participants went over the current Self-Assessment Tool, which composes of more than 120 questions, and worked on breaking it down to fewer questions while keeping each core theme represented. The idea is that MPA managers would start with the light assessment, which will then reveal whether using the full assessment tool would prove beneficial.

Moreover, the idea to adapt the Self-Assessment Tool to other migratory species, particularly pinnipeds and marine turtles, was further developed. Other topics of discussion included capacity building and training, voluntary certification and support for MPA managers.

It was extremely positive to see how solution-oriented the participants were. Ideas for solutions could be collected for the improvement of training, overcoming barriers to MPA managers and more effective implementation of the toolkit generally.

One product of the workshop is a Community of Practice, which aims to offer a combination of building local and national capability, voluntary certification and access to helpful resources and support programmes. With this, the Ocean Governance project hopes create a strong network of MPA managers, both from MPAs and Marine Mammal Sanctuaries, who all apply the Self-Assessment Tool and can use the network to share good practices. It will provide a first point of contact to discuss management weaknesses and implementation with established marine sanctuaries, such as Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

The workshop was highly productive and reaffirmed the need for the Twinning and the Marine Mammals Toolkit. We believe that the new network of managers will constitute a stepping stone towards more effective implementation of the toolkit, and ultimately lead to more protection for marine mammals, who are so vital to our ecosystems.