Each year, the estimated 300 whales feeding near the Southern coast of Sri Lanka are hit over 1.000 times by up to 300 meters long carrier vessels. 50 of these strikes are likely to be lethal for the rare Pygmy blue whales. 2016 could be the ‘year of no return’ for the whales in the area, unless the Sri Lankan authorities, in collaboration with the World Shipping Council agree to submit, before the 27th of November deadline, a proposal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to shift the current lanes 15 Nautical Miles South. Proposals submitted after this deadline would be enforced only 24 months later.
Friend of the Sea has urged the Sri Lankan Government, the World Shipping Council and the top ten shipping companies (NYK, Maersk, Evergreen Marine Corporation, CMA-CGM, MSC, Hapag-Lloyd, APL, Cosco, Hanjin, and CSCL) to submit the proposal to IMO to shift the lanes 15 nautical miles South. The international NGO has offered its help to coordinate a meeting between the parties in the next few weeks.
“The shipping industry has greatly reduced its environmental impact over the years,” explains Paolo Bray, Founder and Director of Friend of the Sea. “It is now time to deal with its silent impact on whales which are being decimated by ship strikes. Shifting the lanes 15 nautical miles South would reduce whales’ strikes by over 90%. The artisanal fisheries and the whale watching industry, which is driving tourism in the area, would also benefit. Coastal pollution would be reduced. Ships would in the end have to add only an average 5 miles to their trips. By meeting the 27th of November deadline, Sri Lanka could become an example to be followed globally in environmental protection and whales’ conservation.”
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Friend of the Sea
Friend of the Sea is an international certification program for products from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. Over 450 companies in more than 50 countries have relied on Friend of the Sea to assess the sustainability of their seafood origins. Audits, based on best and most updated available scientific data, are run by accredited independent certification bodies.
Picture by Sopaka Karunasundara – Dead whale on shipping vessels’ bow – Colombo