On 27 October, 2014, the Government of Bangladesh signed into law the country’s first Marine Protected Area, the ‘Swatch of No Ground’ (SoNG), designed to safeguard whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, and other oceanic species. The SoNG MPA spans 1,738 km2 including waters at the head of the submarine canyon from which it gets its name as well as coastal waters offshore of the world’s largest mangrove forest: the Sundarbans.
The Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project has worked with the Government of Bangladesh since 2004 to ensure the long-term protection of cetaceans through collaboration with local communities. During the course of this work, large numbers of Irrawaddy dolphins, finless porpoises, Pacific humpback dolphins, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, pan-tropical spotted dolphins, and spinner dolphins were observed, as well as what may prove to be a resident population of Bryde’s whales.
It is hoped that the creation of the SoNG MPA—which borders the territorial waters of India—will promote discussions on a trans-boundary protected area, as neighbouring waters likely contain similar species richness and the cetaceans on both sides of the border face the same threats such as entanglement in fishing gear and climate change.