The island of Dominica in the Caribbean has established its first protected area for endangered sperm whales.

The island of Dominica is establishing a marine protected area specifically for the sperm whale, making it the first of its kind in the world.

The government announced on Monday that approximately 300 square miles (800 square kilometers) of the western coast of the island will be designated as a reserve. These waters are known for their vibrant blue color and are important for nursing and feeding.

Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, stated that it is important to protect these magnificent and intelligent creatures and preserve the health of our waters and climate.

Researchers claim that the reserve will serve a dual purpose of safeguarding the animals and combatting climate change.

Sperm whales release feces close to the surface as they deactivate non-essential functions while diving to depths of 10,000 feet (3,000 meters). This results in nutrient-dense waste remaining near the ocean’s surface, leading to the growth of plankton blooms. These blooms absorb carbon dioxide from the air and sink to the ocean floor upon their death. According to Shane Gero, a whale expert and creator of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project, sperm whales in Dominica are believed to defecate more frequently than those in other areas of the world. The project is dedicated to studying sperm whales in the eastern Caribbean.

The reason behind the increased defecation of sperm whales in Dominica is uncertain. Gero suggests that they may be consuming a larger amount of food, or there may be a unique quality to the squid they are consuming.

During an interview, Gero stated that sperm whales are, in a way, helping combat climate change for us.

There are less than 500 sperm whales believed to reside in the waters near Dominica. These whales belong to a group that migrates along the Lesser Antilles, with their range extending from St. Vincent to Guadeloupe. Unlike sperm whales in other parts of the world, those in the eastern Caribbean have a limited range according to Gero.

According to his observation, sperm whales have a social structure that follows the maternal line, and young males eventually migrate to different oceans during their lifetime. Therefore, safeguarding the species is crucial, particularly if there is a low number of female calves being born.

He stated that a single calf being caught in something can result in the destruction of an entire family.

Sperm whales have the ability to birth one offspring every five to seven years.

Whales known as sperm whales have faced numerous challenges in waters near Dominica and other locations, including collisions with ships, getting caught in fishing equipment, and being harmed by chemicals from farming activities, which have all decreased their chances of survival. Prior to the period of whaling, it is believed that there were around 2 million sperm whales living in the depths of the Earth’s oceans, but they were heavily hunted for their oil, which was used for lighting and machinery lubrication. As a result, only about 800,000 sperm whales remain today, according to Gero.

The officials of Dominica have announced that the protected area will promote responsible small-scale fishing and establish a designated international shipping route to prevent further casualties of sperm whales. These animals possess the largest brain in the world and can reach lengths of up to 50 feet (15 meters).

After establishing the reserve, the prime minister stated that his administration will designate an official and monitors to guarantee that the zone is honored and that regulations for whale tourism are upheld. Tourists will still be able to swim with sperm whales and view them from a boat, but with restrictions on the number of visitors.

The decision received praise from experts and environmentalists, including Enric Sala, a resident explorer at National Geographic.

According to him, the Dominica government has acknowledged that sperm whales, who inhabited the area before humans, are also considered citizens of the country. These whales typically spend the majority of the year near the island and therefore, the government is ensuring their well-being in a manner that few other nations have done in the past.

About 35 families of sperm whales, according to estimates, primarily reside in the waters near Dominica. Gero mentioned that some of them are possibly over 60 years old and they communicate through clicking sounds in a vocalization called codas.

Gero stated that it is similar to asking, “Are you also from Dominica?” It serves as a symbolic identifier.

Gero and his group of scientists have also assigned names to specific whales. One of them is called “Snow” because a scientist was reading a book by Margaret Atwood which had a character named “Snowman.” Another sperm whale was given the nickname “Fruit Salad” because a researcher was eating that at the moment. The offspring of that whale was named “Soursop,” following the same theme.