Palau Announces Massive Marine Sanctuary to Protect Whales, Dolphins, Sharks

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 25, 2010 (IPS)

One of Japan’s closest allies declared over the weekend that all of its oceans – more than 600,000 square kilometres – would be a sanctuary for whales, dolphins, dugongs, sharks and other species.

“There will be no hunting or harassment of marine mammals and other species in our waters,” said the Honourable Harry Fritz, minister of the environment, natural resources and tourism of the Republic of Palau.

“We urge other nations to join our efforts to protect whales, dolphins and other marine animals,” Fritz said at a press conference during Oceans Day at the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan.

Japan has long sought to overturn the global ban on commercial whaling and has actively solicited and received Palau’s support for many years. Japan is its second largest source of development aid after the United States. Japanese tourists frequent the islands since many people speak some Japanese.

“Palau now supports conserving marine mammals, along with sharks and other species,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group, a large U.S. NGO.

“This is a very significant announcement,” Lieberman told IPS.

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