In 2011, Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) adopted a comprehensive Global Programme of Work for Cetaceans (2012-2024). This Resolution instructs the CMS Scientific Council to ‘host a workshop to review and provide advice on the impact of the emergent science of cetacean social complexity and culture, as it relates to regional populations and to inform forward decision about CMS conservation priorities’. This mandate is to be delivered through the Aquatic Mammals Working Group.
The workshop will be fundamental in determining how best to define the ‘unit to conserve’ for socially and culturally complex species. Using cetaceans as a case study, the objective of this work is to examine whether the traditional approach to differentiating populations, using only genetic and geographic boundaries, is suitable for species where the influence of social factors on gene-flow may require more fine-scale population differentiation for effective conservation.