Increased Ship Strikes Necessitate “A Broader Area for Ships”!

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  • Warming ocean temperatures are causing some species of whales to stray more frequently into shipping lanes for food.
  • The number of strikes off California increased threefold in 2018 to at least 10 when compared to previous years.
  • When whales get killed in a ship collision, the fatal ship strikes are dramatically under-reported as they often sink and don’t always wash ashore.
  • scientists and animal lovers have pushed for the International Maritime Organization to step up to protect the whales
  • The increased ship strikes necessitates “a broader area where ships don’t travel”.
  • Reduced ship speeds will increase the residence time of a ship in a given area where whales are active. 

According to scientists, warming ocean temperatures are causing some species of whales to stray more frequently into shipping lanes for food, says an article published in The Columbian.

Increased ship strikes 

Researchers say already the phenomenon has increased ship strikes involving rare North Atlantic right whales on the East Coast and giant blue whales on the West Coast. 

The number of strikes off California increased threefold in 2018 to at least 10 when compared to previous years.

What happens when hit?

Scientists and conservationists say when whales get killed in a ship collision, the fatal ship strikes are dramatically under-reported as they often sink and don’t always wash ashore.

Vessel strikes are among the most common causes of accidental death in large whales, along with entanglement in fishing gear. 

Protection from IMO

Conservationists, scientists and animal lovers have pushed for the International Maritime Organization to step up to protect the whales, but it won’t happen without cooperation from the worldwide shipping industry.

10% loss

Nick Record, senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine said the right whales, whose count were only about 400 have lost more than 10 percent of their population in a few years, driving them closer to extinction.

Changing ocean environment 

Scientists say the changing ocean environment with global warming is causing right whales and some other species to stray outside protected zones designed to keep them safe from ships.

Why do they explore new areas?

Record said they start exploring new areas for food when one of their main food resources goes away. 

This means they’re encountering all new sources of mortality because they are going into these places where they are not protected.

West Coast ship strikes

On the West Coast, where there was an increase in whale ship strike deaths, scientists reported that the risk of such accidents has been growing in the 2000s as the blue whale population shifted northward in the North Pacific.

A broader area for ships 

The increased ship strikes could necessitate “a broader area where ships don’t travel,” said Jessica Redfern, an ecologist with New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life and lead author of a study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science in February.

Speed limits

Moving shipping lanes, and the possibility of enforcing slower speeds for large ships, is a subject of much debate among conservation groups, international regulators and the shipping industry.

The council said, reduced ship speeds will increase the residence time of a ship in a given area where whales are active. These factors are some notable uncertainty about how effective reducing ship speeds is in lowering the risk of whale strikes.

Changes to international shipping laws would have to go before the International Maritime Organization, which regulates shipping.

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Source: The Columbian

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