The Caribbean island of Dominica says it will create the world’s first sperm whale reserve.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said commercial fishing and large ships would be banned in an area off the island’s western coast measuring almost 800 sq km (300 sq miles).
The area is a key nursing and feeding ground for the endangered mammals.
“The 200 or so sperm whales that call our sea home are prized citizens of Dominica,” Mr Skerrit said.
“Their ancestors likely inhabited Dominica before humans arrived. We want to ensure these majestic and highly intelligent animals are safe from harm and continue keeping our waters and our climate healthy,” the prime minister added.
Sperm whales have one of the widest global distributions of any marine mammal species, having been spotted in deep waters off the Arctic and Antarctic as well as around the equator.
But the sea off Dominica is one of the few where the species can be found throughout the year.
Commercial fishing will not be permitted in the reserve, but artisanal fishing will be allowed, as long as it is sustainable and does not endanger the whales.
Tourists will be able to view the whales from boats and even swim with them, but their numbers will be restricted under new regulations.
Large ships will be required to use designated ocean corridors to avoid disturbing the mammals.
Source : BBC