Ships and whales don't mix

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Endangered whales are always at risk of being struck by cargo ships.
PHOTO BY JOHN CALAMBOKIDIS/CASCADIA RESEARCH COLLECTIVE

Earlier this year, the Guardian reported on ongoing efforts to address threats to whales posed by huge shipping vessels in and around the San Francisco Bay. In addition to fatally striking the marine mammals – many of which are already on the decline under strain from myriad environmental pressures – cargo ships may inhibit whales’ ability to locate food, mates, or their young by masking the sounds they rely upon for those behaviors.

So it was especially sad to read the news on Sept. 16 that a whale carcass was found on the bow of a container ship coming into the Port of Oakland, especially if biologists determine that it was indeed an endangered blue whale. According to a researcher from Scripps Institution of Oceanography who we interviewed for the story, there are so few blue whales left that if even two die from ship strikes every few years, the entire species could be imperiled.

We received this statement from Jackie Dragon, marine sanctuaries program director for Pacific Environment:

“Another dead whale on the bow of a ship is a reminder that ships and whales don’t mix. Yet with the ever increasing number of ships calling on the busy Port of Oakland, and the fact that all ships must drive through the vital whale-rich marine sanctuary waters just beyond the Golden Gate - we need to step up our efforts to find ways to keep whales and ships apart.”

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