World's 1st Sperm Whale Reserve

News Excerpt:

Dominica creates the world's first marine reserve for sperm whales, safeguarding a unique population and their vital role in fighting climate change.

About the news:

  • The Dominican government is taking significant steps to preserve the natural heritage and contribute to sustainable development.
  • The marine protected area, covering 800 square kilometres, prohibits commercial fishing while allowing limited subsistence fishing and controlled tourism.
  • The government says it will delineate an international shipping lane to prevent the creatures from dying in collisions with vessels.

Sperm Whales:

  • The sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) is the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator.
  • In the pre-whaling days, an estimated two million sperm whales roamed the Earth's deep waters before being hunted for oil to burn lamps and lubricate machinery. Now, some 800,000 are left.
  • Sperm whales worldwide are frequently hit by ships, entangled in fishing gear and affected by agricultural runoff.
  • They are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and endangered under the American Endangered Species Act.
  • Role in Protecting Environment:
    • Sperm whales feed on deep-sea squid and fertilise surface waters with buoyant faeces.
    • Plankton blooms, resulting from whale faeces, capture atmospheric carbon dioxide.
    • When the blooms die, carbon sinks to the ocean depths, aiding in climate change mitigation.
    • The marine reserve aims to conserve these "carbon heroes" and their unique cultural heritage.

About Dominica:

  • The island country of the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The capital and chief port is Roseau.
  • It lies between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Marie-Galante to the north and Martinique to the south.
  • Member of the Commonwealth since independence in 1978.
  • 29 miles (47 km) long and has a maximum breadth of 16 miles (26 km).

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