Monday, June 7, 2021

Saving the Whales is Something the Shipping Industry Needs to Address Immediately

As Ship Strikes Kill Cetaceans a New Way to Identify More Responsible Companies
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – Last week we gave a lot of coverage to the many risks which life at sea can throw up leading to the sinking of vessels and the injuries, and even deaths, of seafarers. Now the dangers which commercial vessels bring to other inhabitants of the ocean are in the spotlight, with a new campaign to protect whales.

Friend of the Sea, a program from the World Sustainability Organization, has created the Whale-Safe international certification standard to raise awareness of this problem, engage the world shipping industry and reduce lethal collisions.

It is a little known fact that up to 20,000 whales die each year because of lethal collisions with vessels. When presented with the sight of one of the great mammals lying dead on the bows of a container ship as shown above the message comes home, but for most of the stricken animals they are fated to die unseen beneath the waves.

According to a study by the International Monetary Fund, which takes into account the whale’s contribution to carbon capture, the fishing industry, and the whale watching sector a single great whale is worth more than $2 million. The creatures also act as an ally against climate change, a great whale can accumulate an average of 33 tonnes of CO2 during its life. Upon its death that stock of carbon dioxide sinks to the sea floor.

Maritime traffic has increased more than 300% since 1992, according to research with satellite data. It doubles every decade, putting under pressure the entire ecosystem where whales travel, feed and breed. Worse still, modern vessels have augmented their speed, making it more difficult to avoid a strike if, by chance, they can spot a whale in their path. It is a worldwide phenomenon.

Whale ship strikes have now become a significant threat to big cetaceans. Collisions kill 20 times more whales than the controversial practice of whale hunting or whaling. Friend of the Sea has identified 11 high-risk areas for collisions: the Mediterranean Sea, Sri Lanka, Patagonia, Panama, and the Western Arctic. The precise areas can be seen on this dossier the group has prepared on the subject.

With around 90 species of cetaceans including whales, dolphins, and porpoises known, and others being still identified by scientists, Friend of the Sea has created the Whale-Safe certification logo to engage all parties in saving the whales. This certification is awarded to companies that comply with criteria including:

  • Implementing a permanent system of thermal cameras to detect whales
  • Be part of the online reporting systems to alert of whale presence in a determined zone
  • Agree to shift shipping lanes and slow speed to reduce the risk of collisions

The new Friend of the Sea Certification is open to shipping lines, cruise companies and fishing fleets to demonstrate their commitment to saving the whales and companies which implement the measures will be identifiable by the Friend of the Sea logo. In turn, everybody can help protect whales by choosing certified operators.