During a series of conferences in Southern Sri Lanka, Friend of the Sea’s director Paolo Bray has exposed the problem of the increasing number of endangered whales being killed by cargo ships strikes.
Pigmy blue whales and other whales feed and breed in the area of the Indian Ocean just South of Sri Lanka. The same area is crossed by the most intense cargo ships traffic in the world: over 5000 ships per month. Dead whales are often carried on the bowls of the 300 meters long vessels. More whales are found floating or stranded with evidence of having been struck by cargo ships. In addition the ships form a “wall of noise” which negatively impacts whales feeding and breeding behavior.
“An estimated 50 to 100 whales are struck to death each year by these vessels,” explains Dr. Bray. “Pigmy blue whales could be led to extinction in the next few years if the shipping lines continue to ignore their impact.”
Friend of the Sea has urged 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 immediately engage at slowing down their ships to less than 10 knots and move their lanes 15 miles South, possibly creating an Area to be Avoided.
“The World Shipping Council will be discussing the matter with member companies to consider what actions may be appropriate.” Bryan Wood-Thomas, Vice-President of the World Shipping Council has commented: “We will reach out to the Government of Sri Lanka to obtain their views on the matter.”
“The shipping industry has greatly reduced its environmental impact over the years,” explains Bray. “It has also engaged to initiatives to reduce impact on whales in Canada and the USA. It is now time for the industry to approach the issue of whale strikes globally and proactively.”
Friend of the Sea will recommend its certified seafood companies to give preference to those shipping lines engaged in preventing whales strikes in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The requirement will be introduced in the new version of the Friend of the Sea standards.
Picture by Sopaka Karunasundara
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.