Dominica has become home to the world’s inaugural protected sanctuary dedicated to the preservation of endangered sperm whales.
Announced by the government on Monday, the marine protected area spans nearly 300 square miles (800 square kilometers) of the island nation’s western waters, recognized as crucial nursing and feeding grounds for these majestic creatures, according to a recent report by the Associated Press.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit emphasized the importance of safeguarding these highly intelligent animals for the well-being of both the marine environment and the climate.
Dominica, often referred to as the Caribbean’s Nature Isle, has recently gained further recognition with attractions like the Waitukubuli Sea Trail making it onto National Geographic’s list of Top 30 Cool Places to Visit in 2024.
Positioning itself as the world’s first climate-resilient nation, Dominica is actively engaged in sustainable infrastructure development through partnerships, including collaboration with Dubai-based company MMC Development Ltd.
Scientists argue that the establishment of the sperm whale reserve in Dominica holds significance not only for the protection of these animals but also as a contributor to the fight against climate change.
Sperm whales, known to defecate near the surface due to physiological adjustments during deep dives, release nutrient-rich feces that lead to plankton blooms. These blooms capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, subsequently pulling it to the ocean floor when the plankton die.
According to Shane Gero, a whale biologist and founder of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project, sperm whales in Dominica are believed to contribute significantly to this process.
While the exact reasons for the increased defecation in Dominica remain unclear, Gero suggests it might be linked to the whales’ dietary habits, possibly involving a higher consumption of squid or specific types of prey.
In essence, sperm whales in Dominica are playing a role in mitigating climate change, acting as unexpected allies in the effort to preserve the planet’s delicate ecological balance.
Scientists and conservationists, including Enric Sala from National Geographic, praised the Dominica’s move.
“The government of Dominica has realized that the sperm whales, which were probably here before humans, are also citizens of Dominica,” Sala said. “These whales will spend most of the year offshore the island. So, they are taking care of some of their citizens in a way that few nations have ever done before.”