Several conservation groups and scientists have called for one of the world’s busiest shipping routes to be immediately re-routed differently to protect blue whales. What has become evident is the tremendous threat they continue to face. The blue whales’ habitat overlaps with a critical shipping artery, which connects East Asia to the Suez Canal, making them prone to noise pollution and ship strikes.
One of the ways to keeping blue whales from being unnecessarily hurt by massive cargo vessels is “uniquely resolvable,” — the ships can slightly alter their conventional route.
On average, each day the whales encounter a face off against a barrage of almost 200 vessels, many of these are container vessels or oil tankers that extend up to approximately 300 meters in terms of length.
Blue whales are the biggest mammals on our planet. However, their numbers have started to dwindle as an endangered species. Given that Sri Lanka’s population does not migrate, there is an increasing need to protect their population to prevent the death of all of the whales.
Well-known biologist Asha de Vos said that they are significantly different from blue whales found elsewhere in the world. It is not simply that they could be different subspecies; it has an entirely different dialect, distinguished feeding habits, and even different behavioral patterns.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare or IFAW mentioned in a letter the risks are likely to be reduced by about 95% if shipping routes are adjusted 15 nm more south than the current route.
The rerouting would also give an edge to Sri Lanka’s thriving whale-watching sector and also to the small-scale fishing communities, whose boats have been observed bobbing close to gigantic ships in the shipping channel.
While Sri Lanka’s government earlier denied approving the change, highlighting economic issues, de Vos mentioned that the economic impacts of shifting the current shipping route would be minimal as most vessels do not make a stop in the country’s waters, but transport goods via the area.
Calls to protect these whales from cargo ships have been ongoing for more than a decade. In 2012, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (the NOAA) wrote that shipping channels off California’s coast are going to be adjusted to secure endangered species of whales from ship strikes in 2007 following the killing of four blue whales in the Santa Barbara route. Five more whales were dead due to vessels three years later.