Ship routes to circumvent whales

07/19/2012

A recent uptick in ships colliding with whales has prompted federal maritime officials to approve a plan to reroute shipping traffic in and around the San Francisco Bay and establish better ways to track whale locations, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced. Recent victims have included migrating blue, fin and humpback whales —all endangered—that are attracted to krill in coastal waters. Last month, a rare fin whale washed up on Point Reyes after its spine and ribs were severed, likely by the propeller of a large cargo ship. “In 2010 it really struck home when a female blue whale carrying a calf was found dead on the beach,” Maria Brown, superintendent of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, told the Washington Post. “And blue whales’ numbers are so small—to lose a female and a new whale coming into the population really sent home the message that we needed to look at the whale strike issue.” The changes in shipping routes and the adoption of new monitoring techniques are set to take effect next year, after a final review by the United Nations International Maritime Organization.