The African Marine Mammal Colloquium (AMMC) was initiated to provide a platform for increased collaboration and communication between researchers working on marine mammals in and around Africa. The first meeting of the AMMC was held at Kleinbaai, South Africa, in May 2010. Talks were presented by each of the 48 participants and a number of discussion groups were held. Several countries were represented but most presentations and discussions were centred on research within the host country. In all, 13 papers that were based on presentations at the AMMC were selected after peer-review to appear in a special issue of the African Journal of Marine Science. Its theme, ‘Conservation biology of marine mammals in the southern African subregion’, reflects both the geographical area represented in these papers and their common subject.