Sperm Whales of Dominica Get Their Own Protected 'Hood

Nov 21, 2023

Our oceans once were filled with millions of whales . But human activity has cut their population by more than half over the past couple hundred years. The tiny country of Dominica in the Caribbean Sea is trying to do its part to keep its nearby whales alive and thriving.

Dominica last week created the world’s first sperm whale reserveCommercial fishing boats and other large ships will not be allowed in almost 300 square miles of waters off the island’s western coast, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced. 

Smaller boats will still be allowed in the reserve, as long as they do not endanger the roughly 35 families of sperm whales in Dominica’s waters. Tourists can still view the whales from boats. They can even swim with them. But the numbers of humans and boats in the area will be limited.   

Whales over the last two centuries have died in great numbers. They have been hit by boats, injured after being entangled in fishing nets, and hunted by humans. About 2 million sperm whales once swam the oceans and seas. Now, roughly 800,000 remain. Sperm whales are known for having the largest brain of the species, and they can grow up to 50 feet. 

Around Dominica, some sperm whales are now more than 60 years old. Most have spent their entire lives around the Caribbean island, whale experts told The Associated Press. Some males have explored other oceans, though. 

Skerrit said Dominica loves its local sperm whales. He told BBC News: “The 200 or so sperm whales that call our sea home are prized citizens of Dominica.”   

Photo from Unsplash courtesy of Flavio.

Reflect: How important do you think it is to protect the habitats of ocean creatures, and what role can individuals play in ensuring the well-being of marine life?

The fourth paragraph of the story _______. (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. describes the physical characteristics of sperm whales
b. explains the decline in the population of whales and the reasons behind it
c. compares the sizes of different whale species
d. A and B
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