"Nobody wants to hit a whale. We want to do whatever can be done to mitigate the risk—but do it based on good science and good management strategies."
—John Berge, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association
|Beached carcass of juvenile fin whale.|
On June 21, 2012, a dead fin whale was sighted during a research cruise by PRBO and NOAA Marine Sanctuaries. It was ashore on a remote beach north of San Francisco. Fin whales, federally listed as endangered, are rare in this area. The individual we reported was a juvenile that had died from major injuries caused by a collision with a ship.
This was not an isolated incident. Documented whale strikes have become more frequent in recent years, as whales and shipping traffic both have increased in the region. Among other known victims was an endangered blue whale in 2010, a female carrying a calf.
Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries have worked with all stakeholders to address this growing problem. On July 16th, federal agencies including the Coast Guard announced a proposal to modify shipping lanes and also to warn vessels of whales’ presence in real time.
John Berge, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, worked on the plan and has said: “Nobody wants to hit a whale. We want to do whatever can be done to mitigate the risk—but do it based on good science and good management strategies.”
As this Observer goes to press, biologists from PRBO and NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries are conducting our late-July research cruise—expert eyes upon the sea to understand and help protect marine wildlife and ecosystems.
Reducing the Footprint of Shipping Traffic
In these maps, red and orange signify concentrations of whales outside the Golden Gate—known from at-sea data gathered by PRBO and NOAA. Gray shading depicts the areas used by ships transiting two marine sanctuaries, Cordell Bank to the northwest and Gulf of the Farallones. A new proposal (illustrated at right) would reduce the vessel traffic “footprint” through areas where whales congregate.