whale ship bow

Blue Whales Spared Ship Collisions On Relocated Restored Ocean Pastures

We can spare blue whales from being run down by ships if we provide them with alternative restored ocean pastures.

Even though commercial whaling was banned in 1986 and put an end to the killing of Blue and other great whales the threat to those whales was not ended.

The greatest threat today to the great whales is the decline in primary productivity of their vast and vital ocean pastures. Ocean phyto-plankton has been observed to be in a terrible state of decline in every ocean basin in the world save that immediately downwind of the dusty Sahara.


Annual Ocean Pasture Primary Productivity From SeaWifs Satellite Click To Expand

In the North Pacific ocean plankton production has plummeted by 26% as measured since the early 1980’s when ocean monitoring satellites were lofted into orbit. Ocean carrying capacity has been doubly decimated, there simply isn’t enough for the whales and other sea life to eat and they are more and more constrained to feeding in the few productive pastures that remain.

Give whales a safe healthy place to graze away from shipping lanes

We can immediately and affordably do what it takes to spare blue whales if we restore ocean whale pastures in safe locations. Some have suggested that moving the shipping lanes is a good idea to save the whales.  Tragically the shipping lanes and ocean geography outside of San Francisco are such that by the time a ship has cleared physical navigation hazards it is just entering the present Blue Whale ocean pasture. Turning the ships south to avoid the whales just wont work.

We have to offer the whales a reason to move. This decline in ocean plant life means that those ocean pastures no longer have the carrying capacity to support former abundant populations of great whales and indeed all of ocean life. The decline of vital mineral dust is the result of our high and rising CO2 which helps plants on land grow. More grass growing means less dust blowing.

It’s a yin and yang relationship between pastures on land and at sea, read more here…

Another great risk is reported on by a new study of blue whales off the coast of California.  Large numbers of deaths and injury are being inflicted on whales that are being struck by ships. In many whale herds, we don’t yet know how big a problem it is, but for many of those herds it is surely holding back recovery.

whale on ship bow

Fin Whale On Cruise Ship Bow In Port

There have been for years reports of the arrival of large vessels into port with the carcass of a large whale bent around the bow bulb of the ship. This seems to have become a more regular occurrence as reported in the news. Of course, these are only those cases that make it to port – surely the vast majority of ship collisions with whales leaves the mortally wounded whale in the wakes of the ship never to be reported.

Ships today are so large and massive that the impact on the vessel on the soft body of a whale is so insignificant that the ships masters are completely unaware that it has happened. About the only time the collision is known is if the ship reaches port carrying the dead whale wrapped around its bow. So why is there an apparent increase in numbers of whale strikes? It’s the bulbous bows of modern ships of course and the macho full speed ahead attitudes as always.

Oregon State University researcher Ladd Irvine and his colleagues attached satellite tags to 171 blue whales over a period of 15 years starting in 1993. For a study of whales this is a huge dataset representing a massive investment, largely in terms of researcher time, and provides a really robust insight into the whale’s habitat use.

whale ship near miss

Near Miss Ship Whale Collision In Ocean Whale Pasture. The whale is in the red circle. Click to enlarge

They found two key ocean pastures are heavily inhabited and frequented by the great whales. One is immediately outside of San Francisco Bay in what is known as the Gulf of the Farralones Islands.  The other further south on the California coast is just north of the Channel Islands, abreast of Santa Barbara and very near the port of Los Angeles.

The whales’ presence in these key ocean pastures isn’t year-round, but is rather concentrated between July and October. This is the summer growing season for the ocean pasture where the whales find vast amounts of their favourite food, krill and copepods and the micro-fish that are found on these healthy ocean pastures.

These key and vital ocean whale pastures are especially important as they are fed by coastal upwellings and “stringers’ of nutrient rich waters with sufficient iron from the nearby land to bloom reliably. Some whales have been tracked over the years and are seen to return to the same spots at the same times over many years. It’s clear that the whales can find the flourishing ocean pastures.

The Problem Is Clear – Stop Running Down Mom And The Kids

When one plots the ships tracks through these vital ocean whale pastures the danger to the whales being run down while grazing and feeding their young is clear. It’s as if we were to make the fast lane for commercial trucks run right past every school yard and supermarket. Even worse these ocean pasture shipping fast lanes are just far enough out of port that the ships have time to make top speed by the time they enter the pastures. The whales and their young have little chance.

Today shipping lanes run through areas most heavily used by great whales, putting them at high risk of ship strikes. The shipping lanes are simply placed in the most economical path to and from port as in the shortest distance between two points. Shipping companies will surely resist changing their routes and incur additional time and fuel costs without solid evidence and some serious sailor to sailor arm twisting. The evidence is what this study provides.

So we can start eating our spinach and preparing for the arm wrestling and fisticuffs with our shipmates, and believe me that is going to be a battle royal, or we can get creative and see if we can coax the whales to move into a new and even more flourishing ocean pasture and whale nursery.

Our Solution Is Straight Forward And Saves Both Whales And Shipping

  1. Restore and revive ocean whale pastures near present shipping lanes providing whales with safe feeding and nursery pastures. I’ve done it.
  2. Do it now! We have shown in our large restored ocean pasture in the NE Pacific that large numbers of whales moved onto the revived remote pasture and took up residence in safety.
  3. It Just Works and even more