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International deal on whale sanctuaries

By Colin Ricketts - 31 Aug 2011 16:20:0 GMT
International deal on whale sanctuaries

America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has signed a deal with a French government agency to safeguard humpback whales as they migrate thousands of miles across international maritime boundaries.

The deal twins the NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the Massachusetts coast and Agoa Marine Mammal Sanctuary in the French Antilles in the Caribbean.

Humpbacks travel more than 3,000 miles between the two safe havens, which will now better coordinate their conservation work and study the threats the majestic mammals face.

The humpbacks spend the spring and summer off the American coast, enjoying the plentiful food there before swimming south to the French controlled waters where they mate and give birth to their young in warmer waters.

The NOAA hopes this deal will help launch a series of international agreements to protect whale numbers - it is the second such compact agreed by the Stellwagen Bank sanctuary following a 2006 sister sanctuary agreement with the Bermudan Government.

"The expansion of our sister sanctuary work to include the French Antilles will play a powerful role in protecting endangered humpback whales, and the opportunity for international cooperation in marine conservation is invaluable," said Daniel J. Basta, director, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

"This agreement has the potential to improve our scientific knowledge, enhance our management ability and increase awareness of the sister sanctuary program to other nations interested in such a partnership - all of which are benefits that extend far beyond the boundaries of the sanctuaries involved."

"We share whales with other nations, just as we share the responsibility for protecting these spectacular animals," said Craig MacDonald, Stellwagen Bank superintendent. "Our broadest mandate is to engender a new discussion in our society about the importance of protecting trans-boundary species, the special places where they live, and our responsibility as global stewards."

Top Image Credit: © NOAA