Friend Of The Sea’s Call To Take Actions Against Ship Strikes

International NGO Friend of the Sea calls both the shipping industry and consumers to take actions to prevent ship strikes. The time you scroll down the news on your smartphone commuting to work, numbers of whales are killed or seriously wounded in the ocean. Chances are high that the vessel which shipped your brand new phone from the other side of the globe impacted whale populations on its way. The day the world celebrates marine life, collisions between vessels and cetaceans – commonly known as ship strikes – are still unnoticed and unreported.

“Consumers are mostly unaware of the connection between the goods they consume daily and whale mortality from ship strikes”, explains Paolo Bray, Director of Friend of the Sea. “This is probably the reason why the international shipping industry hasn’t really felt the need to solve the problem yet, although affordable technology is available to prevent the collisions”.

Several critical areas worldwide are experiencing an unsustainable number of ship strikes. The Mediterranean Sea is among the most affected areas. Every year, fin whale and the sperm whale are forced to dodge 220,000 ships greater than 100 tons, which constitute 30% of international seaborne volume. Other whale populations at risk are in the Hauraki Gulf, one of the busiest shipping passage in New Zealand, home to a semi-resident population, the bryde’s whale; in the Bering Strait, a nexus of trade between North America and Asia for millennia, where maritime traffic is increasing and seriously threatening a population of bowhead whales, and in the waters off Oman where a genetically distinct group of humpback whales risks extinction because of different causes including ship strikes.

Due to their size and speed, major shipping vessels are often unaware of the occurrence of the strikes and consequently are not able to report collisions. Nevertheless, most scientific studies conclude that ship strikes are likely the main cause of whale mortality globally.

Friend of the Sea, a non-governmental organization whose main mission is the conservation of the marine habitat, since 2015 has campaigned internationally for the shipping industry to consider measures to reduce ship strikes.

“Although some major international shipping companies and associations are showing willingness to collaborate on the issue”, comments Bray “the greatest majority of the shipping lines and industry associations have not implemented the existing measures to spot presence of whales, report and undertake measures to prevent strikes yet”.

In order to allow consumers, as well as cruise and shipping lines tourists to be able to select only those operators which have implemented whale ship strikes prevention measures, Friend of the Sea promotes a sustainable and whale-safe shipping certification. Friend of the Sea logo will allow environmentally aware customers to make a choice safe for whales. The proposed solution is simple and effective. Shipping companies need to:

  • Have in place an on-board full-time marine mammal observation program on all vessels;
  • Share real time observations of whales through an online platform;
  • Have a procedure in place to react to and avoid nearby marine mammals.
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