Friday, September 23, 2011

Whale Warning

A warning this week of a possible local extinction of Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf, if measures are not implemented to keep them safe in Auckland’s busy shipping lanes.
An endangered Bryde's whale (pronounced BREW-da) was killed recently in the gulf, after being struck by a ship. It's been just one month since experts warned of this very danger.
Mark Orams, professor of marine tourism at Auckland University of Technology, says while ship strikes in the gulf are sporadic, they still pose a major threat. He’s seen the consequences of ship strikes first-hand: in this most recent collision, the whale experienced severe trauma causing death, including 15 fractured vertebrae and broken ribs as well as extensive bruising.
In 85% of ship strikes, the whale is either killed or badly injured: "If it continues to happen, we can potentially see local extinction of the species...they are not migratory so the loss of even one Bryde's whale is significant, because it means the breeding rates will slow and a decline in breeding will lead to extinction." There are 6-10 Bryde's whales currently in the gulf and, over time, 80 individuals have been recorded. The whales are NZ's most endangered species and feed close to the surface, making them easy targets to be struck by a ship's hull.
Whale-watching tours would also stop if the number of mammals decrease, resulting in the loss of tourism.
Prof.Orams says an easy short-term solution to keep the mammals safer would be to restrict speed for large ships passing through the Hauraki Gulf to Ports of Auckland. A longer-term solution would be research, to determine whale 'hot spots', then directing ships around those areas.

PS: 03 Nov.2011 - The US Coast Guard proposes shifting shipping lanes to save whales.
PS: 04 Feb.2012 - Another Bryde's whale killed in the Hauraki Gulf by a ship. 
PS: 08 Mch.2012 - Slower ship speeds are the key to saving Bryde's whales in the Gulf.

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