New Marine Protected Area for Bangladesh

When the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP) was established in July 2006 by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) its objectives included researching and monitoring populations of cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – with a view to identifying and addressing threats to their welfare. This required working with both government agencies and local communities to develop conservation management plans, provide training and support for scientists and resource managers, and garner support for conservation efforts via community education programs, workshops, and the media. The recent announcement that Bangladesh has created its first marine protected area is seen as evidence that conservation efforts are starting to bear fruit.

On October 27, 2014, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) signed into law the Swatch of No Ground Marine Protected Area (SoNG MPA), offering protection to cetaceans, sharks and sea turtles. The creation of this new conservation area comes ahead of the IUCN World Parks Congress set to take place in Sydney, Australia, on November 12-19, under the banner of “Parks, People, Planet: Inspiring Solutions”. Held once every ten years, the IUCN World Parks Congress first took place in Seattle, United States in 1962 and has been held in Yellowstone, USA; Bali, Indonesia; Caracas, Venezuela; and Durban, South Africa. The objectives of the congress are primarily to influence the way the world views protected areas, review progress and developments over the previous decades, and set goals for the ten years ahead.

Covering an area of 1738 square kilometers on the southern side of Dublachar island in the Bay of Bengal, the Swatch of No Ground Marine Protected Area is home to a significant number of finless porpoises, Irrawaddy dolphins, Pacific humpback dolphins, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, pan tropical spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins and Bryde’s whales, among others, some of which are considered to be ‘vulnerable’ or ‘endangered’ from a conservation standpoint. Protecting the ecosystems in which these marine animals live is also beneficial to the local communities who make a living out of fishing in the waters. The need for protecting land and marine based natural resources is likely to become even more important as the challenges of climate change increase.