From: Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published October 25, 2010 08:41 AM

Island nation announces Mongolia-sized sanctuary for whales and dolphins

Dolphins, whales, and dugongs will be safe from hunting in the waters surrounding the Pacific nation of Palau. At the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, Palau's Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, Harry Fritz, announced the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary covering over 230,000 square miles (60,000 square kilometers) of the nation's waters, an area the size of Mongolia.


"Palau's dugongs are the most isolated and endangered population in the world. We also have at least 11 species of cetaceans in our waters, including a breeding population of Sperm Whales and possibly as many as 30 other species of whales and dolphins that utilize our EEZ. This sanctuary will promote sustainable whale-watching tourism, already a growing multi-million dollar global industry, as an economic opportunity for the people of Palau," Fritz said in Nagoya.

Already, last year Palau declared its waters a sanctuary for sharks. Sharks have been decimated worldwide, with some species' population plunging by 99 percent, due to bycatch, overconsumption, and the shark-fin trade, whereby caught sharks' fins are cut off and the animals are thrown back into the water to die.

Although many populations of whales are rebounding after centuries of commercial whaling, some are still threatened by whaling by Iceland, Japan, and Norway, as well as pollution. Dolphins are often killed as bycatch and suffer from widespread marine pollution.

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