Whales off the California coast are about to get a safer environment as new traffic lanes are developed to protect them from ship collisions between Long Beach and San Francisco.
Blue, fin, and humpback whales have frequently been struck and killed by ships. There are an estimated 2,000 blue whales in the northeast Pacific, about 2,000 fin whales, and about 2,500 humpbacks.
“Nobody wants to hit a whale, for the same reasons that nobody driving down the highway wants to hit a deer, or a possum, or a skunk,” said John Berge, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. “But sometimes, whales and ships find themselves in close proximity.”
Blue whales can grow to be as big as 90 feet long, which is of course quite small compared to a giant cargo ship but still big enough to do some serious damage to both parties. As whale fatalities due to these run-ins began to increase, federal maritime officials got together with environmentalists and the shipping industry to conduct a two-year study on how whale deaths could be prevented.
As a result, three mile-wide lanes along the San Francisco Bay will extend past the Continental Shelf to avoid disrupting whales near the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones. One southbound lane in the Santa Barbara Channel will be relocated a mile north to eliminate disruption in common whale feeding grounds. There will also be similar changes made in Long Beach and Los Angeles ports.
In the meantime, researchers will be flying over additional locations to gather more information on whale habitats and how they are affected by these lanes. Since many whales have been on the endangered list for quite some time, these changes are nothing but welcome.
Image CC licensed by Mike Baird