Palau Announces Mongolia-Sized Sanctuary for Marine Mammals

dugong photo

Photo via Alexgoodey via Flickr Creative Commons

The dugongs of Palau are one of the most endangered populations of the species, but thanks to the establishment of a new marine sanctuary, these animals along with whales and dolphins will be protected. The island nation declared over 230,000 square miles a marine mammal sanctuary -- that's a safe-zone roughly the size of Mongolia.According to Mongabay, Palau already declared a marine sanctuary for sharks, and now is adding marine mammals on to the species protected within its waters.

"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," said Harry Fritz, Palau's Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, to Mongabay.

The country is now calling on other nations to do the same and ramp up the area of ocean they protect. Right now, less than 2% of marine waters are protected, but as conservationist Sylvia Earle points out, these are hope spots that show just how important and productive they are to biodiversity and marine health.

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