Ship Strikes Threat to Blue Whales

The 98 foot, 330,000 pounds or larger at full growth blue whale is reported by experts to be threatened by ship strikes; however, a recent study states differently. In the Santa Barbara Channel off Southern California there were three confirmed blue whale deaths by ship strikes in 2007. Blue whales are at great risk for ship strikes in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in the western North Atlantic according to many environmentalists.

Most experts believe the greatest threat to blue whales is ship strikes. The Ecological Society of America lists the blue whale as endangered. Current conservation efforts include shipboard monitoring, ship strike reduction measures off California, observers placed on board certain large fishing vessels and marine mammal reduction measures as sited in the Pacific Offshore Cetacean Take Reduction Plan.

New research findings published in the journal Marine Mammal Science, state “there’s no immediate population threat to these whales from ship strikes.” The lead researcher and publisher of the article is Cole Monnahan. Monnahan is a doctoral student at the University of Washington.

Monnahan does not believe that ship strikes is a major threat to the survival of blue whales and welcomes other researchers to debate the study. He believes the eastern north Pacific cannot support more than the estimated 2,200 current blue whales. The number of blue whales in the region has not changed since 1993. The blue whale's diet consists mostly of small crustaceans such as krill.

John Calambokidis, a senior research biologist from Cascadia Research Collective located in Olympia, Washington, disagrees with Monnahan’s findings. Calambokidis believes the number of blue whales killed by ship strikes is scandalously under reported. Furthermore, Calambokidis believes that the lack of reported ship strikes results in a false conclusion by Monnahan.

Bruce Mate, director of The Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State, also finds problems with Monnahan’s research. Mate believes that the research did not take into account the expansion in the number of krill and other small crustaceans in the eastern north Pacific since the early 1900’s. Mate believes that the ocean environment can greatly evolve in 100 years.

There were an abundance of blue whales until the early twentieth century. The blue whales were hunted to near extinction until banned by the International Whaling Commission in 1966. The Japanese have pushed to reopen whaling for years with political maneuvering in the IWC. Norway and Iceland are not part of the International Whaling Commission. Japan conducts whaling expeditions under a scientific research clause and sales packaged whale meat to the public.




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