SPAIN’S branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has handed in a petition with over 52,000 signatures to the national government calling for them to set up a whale sanctuary in the Canary Islands.
The global charity wants better protection in the east and south of the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote for whales and dolphins, since a third of the world’s species of both are regularly found there.
“As well as being a fundamental feeding and migration area for whales in particular, it is home to 29 species of them throughout the year and 11 species year-round,” says Beatriz Ayala of the Canarian Oceans Programme, part of the WWF.
Rubbish dumped in the sea, especially plastic waste, plus noise and chemical or fuel pollution from ships, and boats crashing into them are some of the major threats posed to whales and dolphins in the waters off the archipelago.
About 85% of beached whales found dead on Canarian shores have lost their lives through collilsions, according to research by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
A cordoned-off and carefully-monitored section of sea would ensure the safety of these animals and keep them away from hazards posed by human activity, particularly marine transport.
Spain’s government has been researching, since 2011, whether a whale reserve in the Canary Islands would be feasible and would contribute to keeping the creatures from harm, and ‘now we want it to materialise and become reality’, Sra Ayala says