Hey, freight ship, watch out for that whale!
A new study showed that more than 10,000 endangered blue whales were found feeding off the West Coast right in the way of shipping vessel routes. Researchers concluded by asking policy makers to move shipping lanes to preserve the species.
The study was published this Wednesday on PLOS ONE. Blue whales were painlessly tagged using air-powered guns and crossbows and then were tracked by scientists via satellite and radio for 15 years. In that time it became clear the whales, which eat about four tons of krill per day, favor the area where freight ships travel to get get their meal, putting them in direct danger.
“It’s not really our place to make management decision, but we can inform policy-makers and in this case it is pretty straightforward,” stated one of the co-authors of the study, Daniel Palacios. “You will eliminate many of the ship strikes on blue whales by moving the shipping lanes south of the northern Channel Islands.”
The director of the Marine Mammal Institute that tagged the 170 pound whales also agreed that their job as researchers was only to make the fact known and now it’s up for policy makers to make the necessary changes.
“We’ve pointed out that our new data should be useful to the shipping industry and to the various agencies concerned with the lanes that lead to San Francisco and Los Angeles,” he said. “But we’re not out beating the drums, because it’s not our job to decide how those lanes should be moved. That’s up to all the stakeholders.”
Written by Natalia Galbetti, Ecorazzi
Photo Credit: Thinkstock