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Uruguay Becomes a “Sanctuary for Whales and Dolphins”

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Photo shared by @PaipoUruguay on Twitter.

[Links are to Spanish-language pages.]

In September, Uruguay adopted law 19.128, which designates the country's territorial waters as a “sanctuary for whales and dolphins.” The law applies not just to the territorial sea but also to the economic zone that is exclusive to Ururguay and prohibits the chasing, hunting, catching, fishing, or subjecting of cetaceans to any process by which they are transformed. 

It also includes a prohibition against the transportation and unloading of live whales and dolphins, irrespective of whether the vessels sail under Uruguayan or foreign flags. The law envisages penalties for those who do not comply. Exceptions will be made for scientific and medical cases, providing they are approved by state authorities. The law also takes into account cases of harassment, aggression, or any other mistreatment that could lead to the death of cetaceans. 

The law was unanimously approved by the legislature and was promulgated on September 13 by President José Mujica.

The new legislation strengthens Uruguay's existing conservation policies, implemented by the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries (MGAP) and by the National Directorate of Aquatic Resources (DINARA). The Director of DINARA, Daniel Gilardoni, declared to the government publication Presidencia that: “For our country the biggest threat is shipping, a good deal of the beaching is due to collisions between whales and ships.”

The newly designated whale and dolphin sanctuary in Uruguayan waters will be economically beneficial, according to an article entitled “Uruguay sanctuary for whales and dolphins: Let the cetaceans come to me” on the blog Ballenas en Uruguay [Whales in Uruguay].

The cybersphere lit up with favourable reactions to the passing of the law. Social media reflected widespread approval to Uruguay's new status as a “sanctuary for whales and dolphins.”  

Last year, user Jana (@Piper_uy) contributed to the campaign to promote the bill on Twitter:

Click to support the creation of a sanctuary for whales in Uruguay  http://t.co/N7x1uVMN

In October of the same year, according to the journalist Lourdes Vitabar (@louvitabar), several different school groups assembled outside the Legislative Palace: 

At nine o'clock schoolchildren from Maldonado and Rocha (sponsored by Paez Vilaró) are going to the Legislative Palace to promote the whale sanctuary bill

The National Party representative from the Rivera deparment Gerardo Amarilla (@GerardoAmarilla), anticipated the success of the bill in March of this year:

The Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary was approved today in the House of Representatives and will pass in the Senate where it could become law.

Animales Sin Hogar (@ASHcomUY) [Animals Without Homes] celebrated the news when the law was approved in September; at the same time, however, it mourned the death of a beached whale in the Colonia district:

On the one hand we celebrate this wonderful news about the creation of a sanctuary for our whales and dolphins…. http://t.co/DTtyd0hXVQ

For more information on the continuing conversation about Uruguay's marine ecosystem, you can follow the Organization for Cetacean Conservation (OCC) on Facebook and Twitter.

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