DHAKA: The government of Bangladesh has declared a new marine protected area (MPA) spanning 1,743 square kilometers (672 square miles) around Saint Martin's Island, a region which represents 1.5 per cent of the country's exclusive economic zone.
The productive waters around this tropical island teem with biodiversity and provide key habitat for Bangladesh's only coral reef, as well as upwards of 230 finfish species.
The new MPA will also protect globally threatened wildlife such as Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, whale sharks, white-spotted whiprays, long-tailed butterfly rays, and olive ridley, green, and loggerhead turtles.
Also known as 'Coconut Island', Saint Martin's Island is a popular tourist destination and home to around 7,000 residents who depend on seasonal tourism and fishing.
Despite considerable efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of the area's booming tourism industry, over exploitation of corals and fisheries, along with uncontrolled waste and light pollution, have taken a heavy toll on marine biodiversity around the island.
Deputy Minister Habibun Nahar of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change said: "The St. Martin's Island MPA, together with the existing Swatch-of-no-ground MPA and two other marine reserves declared by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, brings Bangladesh one step closer towards achieving our national goal and international obligation under the Convention on Biodiversity and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to protect 10 per cent of our marine waters." (IANS)