Marine mammals are good indicators of ocean health, reflecting the state of the marine ecosystem. They play vital roles in maintaining ecosystem functioning and assist in climate change mitigation. But increasingly, anthropogenic impacts on whales and dolphins are documented globally: noise and chemical pollution, poor nutrition due to overfishing and habitat degradation causing diminished prey abundance, and marine litter. The South African government’s initiative to develop the Oceans/Blue Economy (‘Operation Phakisa’) will impact on the marine environment through coastal development, port construction/expansion, shipping, offshore mining, and oil and gas exploration. Further Blue Economy developments are imminent in both the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans, raising concerns from African colleagues about the potential adverse effects of these activities on marine mammals. We aim to establish a research programme for Ocean Health between South Africa and Germany that a) conducts investigations into the various contributing factors impacting marine mammal health and b) in the process builds capacity in this underdeveloped research field not only in South Africa, but also on the African continent. This will assist in understanding and mitigating anthropogenic impacts on marine mammals off Africa’s coasts and in maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem, thus assisting in climate change mitigation.