Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bryde's Whales Win Gulf Concessions

Shipping companies have joined efforts to save an endangered resident whale in the Hauraki Gulf.
An agreement aims to reduce fatalities from ship strikes, which take a significant toll on NZ's Bryde's whale (pronounced BREW-da) population and other marine mammals. It's the culmination of a 6yr campaign led by Auckland University marine biologist Rochelle Constantine, whose research -  including full necropsies on washed-up carcasses - highlighted the contribution of ship strikes to the whale's plight.
Ships are expected to post whale lookouts during daylight, slow down in areas where the Bryde's whales gather, stick to recommended routes, steer 1km clear of sighted whales and report sightings so other ships can be alerted. They're also urged to avoid the channel between Little Barrier and Great Barrier Islands, a hotspot for whales and dolphins.
image by Peter Tasker
Reducing speed from the customary 15 knots to a desired 10kts is expected to greatly improve survival chances if whales are struck. The move will add up to an hour to transit times, time which can't be made up on short coastal hauls such as Auckland-Tauranga.
Bryde's whales are thought to congregate in the gulf because of plankton, krill and small fish. But habits which include lurking just below the surface and spending long periods resting at night make them vulnerable to shipping. There're less than 200 left in NZ waters and records suggest at least two a year are dying due to ship strike.

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