What is a sanctuary?

Sanctuaries are essentially underwater national parks or protected areas where whales and other marine creatures are protected from human actions and threats. Depending upon who manages the sanctuary, it may be called a marine protected area, a marine sanctuary or simply a whale sanctuary.

What difference do sanctuaries make?

Whale sanctuaries are designated areas in the oceans where whales are protected from human threats to their survival. An individual sanctuary may protect important feeding, breeding, birthing or migratory areas for one or more species of whale, dolphin and porpoise.

These sanctuaries can therefore aid in the recovery of depleted whale populations, ensure the overall health of marine ecosystems and protect the natural heritage of coastal communities.

Sanctuaries can bring important human benefits as well, providing significant support to local fisheries, education and tourism.

Featured Whale Sanctuaries

There are dozens of sanctuaries, marine protected areas and other designated whale-safe areas in the world’s oceans and seas. Some of the more important sanctuaries and protected areas for whales include the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, IWC sanctuary in the Indian Ocean, the Baja region of Mexico and other national sanctuaries. Whale sanctuaries are at risk from climate change, as well as a variety of environmental impacts from human activities.

Some of these sanctuaries ban only whaling activities while others have a broader scope, including:

  • Regulation of vessel interactions and area closures;
  • Monitoring specific fishing practices or seasonal closures;
  • Developing pollution protocols for habitat protection.

Across all of these, however, there is a common ambition to defend and protect whales and their habitats around the world.

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