Saturday, December 29, 2012

Good News for Our Whales

I love whales.  They are large, beautiful marine mammals and I don't know why I love them so, but I do.
This photo was taken when I was in Hawaii.  That black spec you see, is a humpback's tail.  When you see this, it means they are going down for a deep dive.

This post is about whales.  I read some very good news this morning that I wanted to share because sometimes, it seems good news is rare.

On 12/28/12,, the Marin Independent Journal, posted an article, "Ocean Shipping Lanes Off Marin Coast Changed to Protect Whales."  Here is the article:

"Busy shipping lanes off the Marin coast will be adjusted to protect endangered whales from being hit by ships, such as the one that killed a fin whale that washed up in the Point Reyes National Seashore over the summer.

The International Maritime Organization has approved vessel lane changes on approaches to San Francisco Bay, as well as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and in the Santa Barbara Channel. The changes take effect in June.

Migrating blue, fin and humpback whales are prone to ship strikes because they are often lured to the California shoreline by plentiful krill. All three species are endangered.

See that black mark.  That is a whale.
 In June, a 47-foot-long male fin whale washed ashore in a remote area south of Wildcat Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Biologists concluded the whale had been killed after being hit by a ship. Injuries to the spine, ribs and other skeletal elements and tissues were extensive.

In 2010, five whales died in ship accidents in the area outside San Francisco Bay and scientists believe the mortality rate may be much higher because most dead whales sink. Under the recently approved lane modifications, three lanes on the approach to San Francisco Bay will be extended — a move that will limit interaction between whales and cargo ships within the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones national marine sanctuaries. Part of both sanctuaries are off Marin's coast.

Under the new plan the northern shipping lane, which runs along the Marin coast, will be narrowed to 3 nautical miles wide and extended by nearly 17 miles, sweeping past the Point Reyes Peninsula. It will also be turned slightly to keep ships away from Cordell Bank, known as a "destination feeding ground" for blue and humpback whales, giant mammals that eat krill, a small crustacean.
Narrowing the western lane is intended to shift vessel traffic away from the seabird colony at the Farallon Islands.

'This is a very positive step,' said Lance Morgan of Glen Ellen, president and CEO of the Marine Conservation Institute, a nonprofit organization.

Morgan served as co-chairman of a working group that included environmentalists, whale experts and shipping industry representatives that assessed vessel strikes on whales and recommended, in a June report, modification of shipping lanes.

The idea, Morgan said, is to 'reduce the probability' of whale and ship collisions.

Shipping lanes handle vessels over 300 gross tons, including tankers, container and cruise ships.
The northern and western lanes will be extended to the edge of the continental shelf, the area where migrating whales feed and congregate.

I wish my photos were closer for you.  This is the back of the same humpback.
 Blue whales, the largest animals on the planet, are of prime concern because their northeast Pacific population of about 2,000 has 'flat-lined' since commercial whaling in the United States ended in the 1970, said Michael Carver, deputy superintendent of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
The blue whales' vulnerability is heightened by their tendency to surface in response to stress, bringing them into "striking range" of large vessels, Carver said.

The proposed shipping lane modifications were approved last month by the International Maritime Organization, which governs shipping worldwide, and will be implemented in June, he said.
The next step, Morgan and Carver said, is to establish real-time monitoring of whales and to actively direct vessel traffic away from them."

(IJ reporter Mark Prado, MCT Information Services and the Associated Press contributed to this report)