Campaigners are calling for one of the world’s major shipping lanes to be rerouted to protect a population of blue whales.
This population of whales is unique in that it does not seem to migrate, instead choosing to reside permanently in the waters off Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately, their location is in the middle of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, as the waters are a primary route from Asia to Europe via the Suez Canal. This means the whales are exposed daily to over 200 gigantic merchant ships and tankers, many over 300m/985ft long. Campaigners believe the risk of vessel strikes and noise pollution is detrimental to the blue whale population.
Campaigners are lobbying the Sri Lankan government to shift the route to the south a mere 15 nautical miles/27.8 km. This would have a negligible impact on the ships but a massive impact on the whales.
In a letter submitted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Great Whale Conservancy and OceanCare, the organizations stated:
“Studies indicate that if a shipping lane were to be established 15 nautical miles to the south of the current lane, the risk of collisions with blue whales would be reduced by 95%.”
While Sharon Livermore of IFAW told The Guardian:
“This tiny little shift in the location of the shipping lane would make a huge difference to the conservation status of these whales. . . . The risk is so high that we know that there must be many more being killed than are being reported. . . .The blue whale might be the largest animal on the planet — these ones are about 22 meters long — but they pale in significance against a 300-meter cargo ship.”