Dominica Set to Create World’s First Marine Protected Area for Sperm Whales
by Karen Rollins Nov 15, 2023
Dominica is set to create the world’s first marine protected area for the endangered sperm whale, the government has announced.
The site designated as a reserve will cover nearly 300 square miles (800 square kilometres) on the western side of the island which is roughly the size of Dominica itself. These waters already serve as key nursing and feeding grounds for a small group of sperm whales.
In a statement, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said: “The 200 or so sperm whales that call our sea home are prized citizens of Dominica. We want to ensure these majestic and highly intelligent animals are safe from harm and continue keeping our waters and our climate healthy.”
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Blue and Green Economy, Roland Roy, also outlined the potential benefits of the reserve at the press conference. He said: “It is our hope that through the Sperm Whale Reserve we are able to create a new model of eco-tourism that provides multiple benefits, both tangible and intangible to a wide range of stakeholders particularly in the tourism, transportation, and fisheries sectors.
He added: “Recognising that we are a small island developing state with limited resources, we have the opportunity through this humble act of protecting the Sperm Whales that call Dominica home, to have a profound regional and international impact, and to be able to now promote our image as a large ocean developing state.”
Sustainable artisanal fishing will be allowed within the reserve and an international shipping lane will be marked out to avoid sperm whale deaths.
Once the reserve is created, Mr Skerrit said his administration will appoint an officer and observers to ensure the area is respected and that whale tourism regulations are enforced. Visitors can still swim with sperm whales and see them from a boat, but in limited numbers.
Sperm whales have the largest brains of any animal species in the world and can grow up to 50ft (15 metres). The pod living in the waters surrounding Dominica are part of a population that moves along the Lesser Antilles chain, swimming as far south as St Vincent and north into Guadeloupe.