On November 13, the small Caribbean island nation of Dominica announced the creation of the world’s first sperm whale protected area, with a ban on commercial fishing and large vessels.
While the circulation of vessels over 18 meters will probably be banned, small-scale artisanal fishing will remain authorized.
The marine protected area will cover almost 800 km² off the west coast of Dominica, roughly the size of the island itself. In addition to boosting tourism revenues, the country hopes to trap more carbon in the seabed, thanks to the biological properties of these cetaceans.
According to National Geographic, sperm whales offer climatic advantages, as their excrement is rich in nutrients and encourages the proliferation of plankton that capture carbon dioxide from seawater.
How does sperm whale poop fight climate change?
Sperm whales defecate near the surface because they shut down non-vital functions when they dive to depths of up to 3,000 metres. As a result, nutrient-rich poop remains along the ocean surface and creates plankton blooms, which capture CO2 in the atmosphere and drag it to the ocean floor when they die.
Assuming that 250 sperm whales live in Dominica’s waters, they trap up to 4,200 tonnes of carbon every year – the equivalent of taking 5,000 cars off the road, according to the non-profit organization Pristine Seas.