Monday, September 9, 2013


"A new star in the constellations", "Better light a candle than curse the darkness".....Such are the phrases coined and borrowed to describe such momentuous event as the birth of a new whale sanctuary in Uruguay. 

Once where there were whales there were "whalers" wherever there are whales there are "whalewatchers" and advocates of Sanctuaries ,MPAs etc..( Sanctuaries by other names) and the significance of this great event and steady progress of sanctuaries is not lost on them. 

The Irish Whale and Dolphin group (IW+DG) remembers well the euphoria surrounding the Irish Sanctuary and more than 21 years later how this consciousness, multiple shared experience and benefits since , is embedded in the psyche of every resident of the sanctuary..... 

The IWDG wish Uruguay every blessing and benefit also. "Let the contagion spread" was the exhortation of Sidney Holt , welcoming the Irish Sanctuary.... not words readily applied to the watery world of whales but appropriate to the intensity of whale advocates. 

And the image carries through ; as growing populations of sanctuary advocates reach "critical mass" in more countries ; as further nations combust spontaneously adding to the constellation of sanctuaries ; as the contagious vanguards jumps EEZs into fresh jurisdictions and sanctuaries, like the whale inhabitants connecting them ,tectonically collide and co-alesce, covering all the oceans. 

Nothing is more irresistable than an idea come of age and Uruguay and other whale sanctuaries are testament to that. 

They are an unstoppable movement and where words fail to describe the power of an idea and people behind it, such an image as "contagion" of "whale sanctuaries" spreading across oceans , as seen from space, does so fittingly and it started with a "spark". 

Today's sanctuary movement stands on those that went before and tomorrow's on those of today. 

Eric Hoyt's beautiful book and guide is the handbook for  future sanctuaries and essential reading for sanctuary advocates wishing to join the dots and close the gaps in protection for whales.

May Uruguay be further incentive and example for the pan-European Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary advocated by the IW+DG
Well done Rodrigo, the Organisation for Conservation of Cetaceans and Uruguayan Parliament....full account by Carol Ann Bassett follows

Brendan Price Founder Member of the IWDG and proposer of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Sanctuiary


By Carol Ann Bassett

(Montevideo, Uruguay) September 3, 2013

The Uruguayan Parliament today voted unanimously (62-0) to establish a protected sanctuary for migrating whales and other cetaceans. Uruguay’s coastline is a major route for the Southern Atlantic right whale, which travels here to mate and raise its calves during the peak migration season from August to November.

The vote was a major victory for this small South American nation, where in the last few years, large development schemes have continued to threaten the very resources that attract tourists from around the world. These plans include a vast open pit iron mine, a deep sea port along a pristine beach in the Department of Rocha to barge the iron ore to China, and the approval of $1.65 billion USD for offshore seismic testing to international petroleum companies, including Exxon-Mobile and British Petroleum.

The whale sanctuary was first proposed in 2002 by the small nonprofit group, the Organization for the Conservation of Cetaceans (OCC), which created “The Route of the Whale” to raise awareness about sustainable tourism and responsible whale watching. The network extends from the hillside town of Piriápolis north to the Brazilian border. Wooden observation towers mark the way.

“This is a historic moment for Uruguay and the entire world,” said marine biologist Rodrigo García Píngaro, founder and executive director of OCC after the historic vote was cast. “It shows that Latin American nations are becoming more united in protecting whales and other marine life in their coastal waters.”

Before the vote was cast, Congressman Gerardo Amarilla, former president of the national Commission on the Environment, stressed that from this day forward, all major development projects along Uruguay’s coast will require stricter environmental regulations and enforcement before they’re officially approved.

“Our goal is to create a natural Uruguay,” he noted.

* * *

Carol Ann Bassett is Program Director of a Study Abroad Program at the University of Oregon, which focuses on environmental issues in Uruguay. She is currently in Montevideo with eight multimedia students who are documenting OCC’s Route of the Whale.

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