The International Maritime Organization, which governs global shipping, has approved proposals that would reroute shipping lanes along the California coast in order to protect endangered whales from collisions.
The route adjustments were recommended by the Coast Guard and NOAA after four blue whales were thought to have been killed by ship strikes in the Santa Barbara Channel in 2007 and an additional five whales were suspected ship-strike victims off the Central and Northern California coast in 2010.
The current shipping lane traverses a steep underwater drop-off just north of the islands off Santa Barbara—where blue whales congregate to feast on krill.
Cargo vessels make about 6,000 transits through the Santa Barbara Channel a year, making it the busiest shipping channel in the continental U.S.
Scientists are uncertain whether ship strikes are hampering the recovery of blue whales, which were hunted to near extinction. Researchers see only some of the casualties, such as the 40-foot fin whale that washed up and decomposed on Malibu’s Point Dume earlier this month. An unknown number float out to sea or sink to the ocean floor. A necropsy on the Malibu whale showed it had suffered crushed vertebrae and bleeding consistent with a ship strike.
The changes are expected to go into effect late next year.
Source: LA Times