One of the biggest dangers to whales today is getting hit by large cargo ships while they’re on the surface preparing to dive.
To that end, scientists have been able to track at least one blue whale as it swims amid heavy ship traffic in the Gulf of Ancud off Chile. In an animation posted on Instagram, the blue dot is the whale, and the brown dots are ships that traveled in the area from March 22nd, 2019 to March 29th, 2019.
That data was published this week in the journal “Nature” in an article titled “Defining priority areas for blue whale conservation and investigating overlap with vessel traffic in Chilean Patagonia, using a fast-fitting movement model.”
The data in this study are very alarming, according to principal author Dr. Luis Bedrinana-Romano:
“We know where the whales are, but we also know that their total population in this area is very low. In fact, our research shows there are between 200 and 700 individual whales in the region, making any collision with a ship and resulting death of the whale a real threat to their conservation.”
On top of that, Bedrinana-Romano says according to his team’s research the situation is so critical that “if one blue whale were to die every two years due to human causes, the whale population’s recuperation rate would be very threatened.”
The area has already seen fatal collisions between whales and ships in 2009, 2014 and 2017, according to the scientists.
Check out the study here, or watch the animation below.