Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on April 23, 2008
If you think whales are only under threat by the Japanese and the Norwegians, you might be surprised to learn that we Americans are on the animals’ most feared list as well.
How, you ask? Ships. Off the Georgia coast, “slow-moving, endangered whales” crawl along their migratory route. The trouble is, Charleston Harbor falls in the middle of that route and it harbors of a lot shipping interest.
So, the ships just need to steer clear, right? Well, yes. In theory. However, whales are already in the danger zone.
Ships are one of the leading causes of unnatural death among the North Atlantic right whales. “Scientists have warned that the unnatural death of even one breeding female has the potential to tip the species toward extinction. From 2002 to 2006, there were 17 confirmed deaths by ship strike, at least six involving adult females”. The right whale grows to about 60 feet and is “black with distinctive white markings”. Heavy hunting in the 1800s severely depleted stocks. The remaining whales are now extremely rare. Particularly at risk are the female whales, who come to the area to birth and nurse. As they don’t feed during this time, they’re often weaker and more susceptible to being hit than their male counterparts.
The National Marine Fisheries Service have tried to implement a number of initiatives to reduce the fatalities. Like a speed limit on those ships within a 30-mile radius of port. Sadly, the White House has been dragging its heels in approving it. The Fisheries Service has recommended “shipping-route changes and radioing ships to notify them of whale sightings”. But as compliance is voluntary, the effectiveness has been limited. “A 2005 study showed that 95 percent of ships notified of whale sightings failed to slow down or skirt the area”.
A recent proposal by the Fisheries Agency that took three years in the making is for vessels greater than 65 feet to reduce speed to 10 knots during whaling season. Unfortunately this was met with criticism from The Georgia Ports Authority, who asked the agency: “(How can you) responsibly justify putting the entire economic burden for compliance with speed restrictions on 100 percent of the oceangoing commercial fleet when, at best, it may be responsible for less than 50 percent of the collisions?”
Huh? That’s making zero sense. I feel for the Fisheries agency. There’s some serious denial going on with shipping side. I wonder if there’s a 12-step program that will help.
(via the New York Times)