The Pacific Island nation of Palau has announced the establishment of a 230,000-square-mile marine mammal sanctuary that will protect whales, dolphins, and the endangered dugong — a relative of the manatee — from hunting and fishing. Harry Fritz, Palau’s Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, announced the creation of the Mongolia-sized sanctuary at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan. He said that the sanctuary will protect as many as 30 species of whales and dolphins that either breed inside Palau’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or travel through it. In addition to protecting the rare dugong, the sanctuary also will promote whale-watching tourism in Palau’s waters, Fritz said. Last year, Palau declared a sanctuary for sharks inside its EEZ in an effort to slow the booming global trade in shark fins, used in soups in China and Asia. The Convention on Biological Diversity has set a goal of preserving 10 percent of the world’s oceans as marine sanctuaries by 2012. Currently, only 1.17 percent of marine waters are protected, according to the Nature Conservancy.
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Photo Credit: dugong by KJGarbutt via flickr (CC license)