Federal agencies are resisting actions designed to protect whales from collisions with ships. As a result, fatal ship strikes on whales are becoming a leading threat to survival.
Due to a combination of increasing coastal ship traffic, smaller crew size, bigger vessels and faster speeds, fatal collisions between ships and whales are on the rise. Deafening underwater noise levels also prevent whales from hearing approaching propellers.
Today, there are fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales left in existence. A primary cause of right whale injury and mortality is entanglements in fishing gear. Yet, National Marine Fisheries has not implemented decisive measures to reduce these entanglements, due in part to fishing industry opposition.
- Between 20 and 35% of all whales found dead show cuts and blunt trauma consistent with a ship strike;
- Ship strikes are the largest known cause of death for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, and particularly calves who have undeveloped diving capability. The risk of ship collision is now the biggest threat facing the blue whale, the largest mammal on earth; and
- The vast majority of ship strikes are not reported. In fact, 42 of 292 incidents were logged only because whale carcasses were pinned to the prow of ships entering harbors.