The idea of developing an action plan for the conservation of West African small cetaceans and manatees was launched at the workshop on “Conservation and Management of small cetaceans of the coast of Africa” held in Conakry, Guinea, in May 2000. Meeting participants were representatives of seven Range States (Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Senegal, The Gambia and Togo), as well as international experts. Two resolutions (Res.7.7 and Res.8.5) and one recommendation (Rec.7.3) adopted by the CMS Conference of the Parties at its Seventh and Eighth Meetings in 2002 and 2005, respectively, support the development of a CMS instrument on small cetaceans and sirenians in West Africa as well as the implementation of action plans.

A first negotiation meeting (Adeje, Tenerife, Spain, in October 2007) had considered and further elaborated a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia, including two separate Action Plans for small cetaceans and the West African manatee respectively. A year after this successful first WATCH (Western African Talks on Cetaceans and their Habitats) meeting, the WATCH II meeting was held on 2-3 October 2008 in Lomé, Togo. Here, the final negotiation and signing of the Memorandum of Understanding took place, including the adoption of the two action plans, which are annexes to the MOU. 15 governmental representatives signed the MOU, as well as three non-governmental collaborating organisations.