Until recently, the greatest threat to cetaceans was considered to be the direct take by the whaling industry or as bycatch.
However, collisions between cetaceans and ships, known as “ship strikes”, are now considered to be the major threat.
Crews are often unaware that a collision has taken place. Most dead whales sink to the bottom of the sea and only maybe 10% are washed ashore. It’s a silent massacre.
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The worldwide shipping is doubling every 10 years, carrying a lethal impact on whales. Experts estimate that at least 20.000 whales are killed struck by cargo, cruise and fishing ships. Fatal collision rates in areas like the Mediterranean Sea and Sri Lanka have almost doubled in the past 40 years and whale populations have reduced by more than 50%.
Human-induced mortality caused by ship strikes can be an impediment to whale’s population growth. Populations in the low hundreds of individuals are at risk of continuing declines even if only a small number of ship strikes occur per year. Therefore, it is important to identify populations that are small, in decline, or for which human activities result in whale deaths or injuries.
Effective results in critical areas are urgent. For this, mitigation actions need to be conducted collaboratively. Monitoring and understanding the effects of shipping on our oceans is essential to focus efforts on mitigating the externalities generated by the activity, and to direct shipping companies towards more sustainable transport.
Friend of the Sea, a program to promote products and services which respect the marine habitat, decided to launch an awareness campaign and award those shipping operators which implement measures to prevent whales ship-strikes”
Friend of the Sea urges ship owners and governments to implement measures to prevent whales ship-strikes: a combination of thermal cameras, online reporting systems, shift in shipping lanes. Cruise lines, ship operators and fishing fleets which will implement these measures, will be identifiable by the Friend of the Sea logo. In turn, everybody can help protecting whales by choosing Friend of the Sea certified operators.
WSO ACTIVITIES AND INITIATIVES
In 2015, Friend of the Sea launched a campaign focusing on the increasing numbers of whales being killed or affected by ship strikes. Pygmy blue and other whales feed and breed in the Indian Ocean, just south of Sri Lanka, an area subject to some of the busiest cargo ship traffic in the world.
Aside from the potential lethal strikes, the loud noise from ships creates negative impacts on whales’ feeding and breeding behaviours.
Friend of the Sea has urged the World Shipping Council and the Sri Lankan Government to submit a proposal to the International Maritime Organization to move the shipping lanes 15 miles south, reducing the risk of collisions by 94%.
Friend of the Sea has also proposed an international project to assess such risks and introduce impact reduction measures.
How you can help save the whales
You can support the Save the Whales campaign by signing the Change.org petition, which will help Friend of the Sea convince seafood and fishing companies to make a change benefit both the fishing industry and conservation.
If we all work together, we can save the magnificent Whales from extinction.