Between 6 and 11 March 2023, the Marine Mammal Twinning of the Ocean Governance project’s component 2  attended the 3rd Humpback Whale World Congress, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The congress brought together stakeholders involved in humpback whale conservation and the theme of this year’s edition was “The Blue Economy for Sustainable Development”, reflecting on the importance of humpback whales in their migratory areas.

On the first day of the congress, the twinning presented the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit, an online resource designed to help marine protected area (MPA) managers and practitioners to better understand and effectively manage marine mammals through MPA management plans and policy frameworks. Made up of 4 components (factsheets, self-assessment tool (SAT), good practices and community of practice), the toolkit provides tools and resources to support networks of managers, marine mammal management and conservation. The presentation was attended by 80 scientists, conservationists and managers and served as an introduction to the series of training workshops that the twinning delivered during the congress.

The workshops, entitled “Towards the effective management of marine mammals and MPAs: the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit”, aimed to enhance understanding of the toolkit, with a specific focus on the use of the self-assessment tool and how it can be used in localised settings to support MPA management. The workshops were attended by MPA practitioners, stakeholders and users from Haiti, Colombia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, representing different stages of the MPA process, from initial scoping and MPA development, to monitoring and evaluation of MPAs and reporting on MPA progress and effectiveness.

The twinning also sponsored the participation of a master’s student, Dalma Sonez from the University of the Republic of Uruguay. Dalma supported the twinning in delivering the workshops and presented the results of her thesis, for which the toolkit was utilised to understand the level of protection afforded to marine mammals across 11 MPAs throughout the Americas.

The congress provided the opportunity to emphasise the toolkit’s adaptability and multi-faceted application for monitoring, evaluating, capacity building and communication. The twinning explored new avenues of collaboration, focused on welcoming new MPAs into its community of users and strengthening its resources, and will be looking to continue to provide valuable support to managers and users for the successful conservation of marine mammals.