On Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013, the Uruguayan Parliament unanimously voted to establish a Sanctuary for migrating whales and other cetaceans.
The whale sanctuary was first proposed in 2002 by a small nonprofit group, the Organization for the Conservation of Cetaceans (OCC). This campaign was in the works for several years as a community-based participatory project from mainly school children and national and local authorities.
Years later, in 2010, thanks to more suitable political, environmental and social conditions, the campaign was resumed with support from national and international organizations. In 2012 the bill was raised once again and introduced before the Environment Committee and Parliament by a group of students, who were the main promoters. The children represented the proposal with documents in their own handwriting and symbolically occupied the representative’s seats. Finally, on Tuesday, the Uruguayan Parliament voted unanimously (62-0) to establish the Whale Sanctuary. This bill declares the entire Exclusive Economic Zone in Uruguay as a Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary, where these animals will be protected.
“This is a historic moment for Uruguay and the entire world,” said 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 of 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.
The establishment of this whale sanctuary is a great achievement for our citizens, a great achievement for the world, but mainly a great achievement for whales and dolphins. There is much work to be done to protect them, and it is needed now more than ever.
By Carolina Andrade
Project Coordinator at OCC
Sea Shepherd Uruguay volunteer
Additional photos may be found here: