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Title:Save the “massive, living, beautiful, breathing, majestic boxes of carbon” known as whales
Date:3/18/2023 8:00:00 AM

Ships, noise, and climate change are killing whales. Here’s how to change that.

It has been a bad winter for the whales.

While the total number of whales washed ashore - beached - on the East Coast since January is lower than in recent years, the quick succession of deaths over the past few months is “unusual,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the body that monitors and sets regulations to protect whales in the US, told the New York Times late last month.

The majority of the 22 beached whales on the East Coast found this season died from ship strikes, or collisions with vessels. Every year, cargo, cruise, and fishing vessels kill an estimated 20,000 whales. These ship strikes are a result of the overlap between whale feeding grounds and maritime shipping lanes, and an increase in vessels on the ocean, says Douglas McCauley, the director of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory. Other human-caused dangers - namely noise pollution and climate change - are also contributing to whale deaths, McCauley added.

McCauley’s lab allows anyone anywhere to submit issues of concern affecting our oceans, like ship strikes, on its website. The laboratory team then selects submissions, studies them, and builds solutions to address the issues.

“It’s a big ocean, but, unfortunately, in many parts of the world, ships and whales overlap in the same space,” said McCauley. This is why the laboratory, along with a team of scientists from around the world, developed Whale Safe.

Whale Safe is a tool that tracks both whales’ and cargo ships’ movements, and then shares this data publicly and with shipping companies. Speed matters. When ships go slower, they’re able to avoid or at least decrease the severity of collisions with whales. Shipping companies receive grades from Whale Safe based on how well they adhere to NOAA-recommended speeds in waters where whales are active.

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Organization:VOX - Science
Date Added:3/19/2023 6:38:24 AM