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News no tags 12 Mar 2019

Whale experts call for rethink of global shipping routes

Consequence of Global Shipping Routes for Marine Giants

 

Researchers from Macquarie University are calling for a rethink of global shipping routes, to protect whales and sharks from becoming marine ‘roadkill’.

More than 10 billion metric tons of goods travel by sea each year, making up 80 per cent of the world’s merchandise trade. The continual growth of the shipping trade and rebounding of some whale populations post-whaling is leading to increasing clashes between cargo ships and marine giants. Melting sea ice has opened up new shipping routes through previously untouched whale habitats.

 

Deadly ship strikes are not the only threat to the animals, with vessel noise disrupting whales’ delicate communication, and chemical pollution and heavily used routes fragmenting habitats. Whale researcher Dr. Vanessa Pirotta from Macquarie University said lessons from the wildlife impacts of roads could be applied to the ocean, to prevent marine giants becoming ‘roadkill’.

 

“New shipping routes through whale habitat put vulnerable species at risk, and this study provides a new understanding of how to mitigate shipping traffic impacts on these marine giants,” says Vanessa.

 

The publication was a collaboration with James Cook University and authors propose limiting the creation of new shipping routes in areas such as the Arctic and broadening shipping exclusion zones to take into account the impact of ships beyond the marine roads themselves, such as noise pollution and chemical contamination.

 

 

Pirotta, V., Grech, A., Jonsen, I., Laurance, W. and Harcourt, R. Consequences of global shipping routes for marine giantsFront Ecol Environ. December 2018. doi.org/10.1002/fee.1987