Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
..
. Earth Science News .




WHALES AHOY
15-year analysis of blue whales off California finds conflict with shipping lanes
by Staff Writers
Newport OR (SPX) Jul 24, 2014


Researchers examine a dead blue whale killed from a collision by a ship. Image courtesy Craig Hayslip, Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute.

A comprehensive 15-year analysis of the movements of satellite-tagged blue whales off the West Coast of the United States found that their favored feeding areas are bisected by heavily used shipping lanes, increasing the threat of injury and mortality.

The researchers note that moving the shipping lanes off Los Angeles and San Francisco to slightly different areas - at least, during summer and fall when blue whales are most abundant - could significantly decrease the probability of ships striking the whales. A similar relocation of shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy off eastern Canada lowered the likelihood of vessels striking endangered right whales an estimated 80 percent.

Results of the study - which was supported by the Office of Naval Research, the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, private gifts to the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute and others - are being published this week in the journal PLOS ONE.

The analysis is the most comprehensive study of blue whales movements ever conducted. It was led by researchers at Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute, who tracked the movement of blue whales off the West Coast to identify important habitat areas and environmental correlates, and subsequently to understand the timing of their presence near major ports and shipping traffic.

"The main areas that attract blue whales are highly productive, strong upwelling zones that produce large amounts of krill - which is pretty much all that they eat," said Ladd Irvine, a researcher with OSU's Marine Mammal Institute and lead author on the PLOS ONE study.

"The whales have to maximize their food intake during the summer before they migrate south for the winter, typically starting in mid-October to mid-November."

"It appears that two of their main foraging areas are coincidentally crossed by shipping lanes," Irvine added.

In their study, the researchers attached transmitters to 171 blue whales off California at different times between 1993 and 2008 and tracked their movements via satellite. Their study looked at seasonal as well as individual differences in whale distribution, documenting a high degree of variability - but also a strong fidelity to the upwelling zones that coincide with ship traffic to and from the major ports of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Blue whales can grow to the length of a basketball court, weigh as much as 25 large elephants combined, and their mouths could hold 100 people, though their diet is primarily krill - tiny shrimp-like creatures less than two inches in length.

The blue whale is the largest creature to ever inhabit the Earth, yet little was known about their range or where they went to breed until Oregon State's Bruce Mate led a series of tracking studies featured in the popular 2009 National Geographic documentary, "Kingdom of the Blue Whale."

An estimated 2,500 of the world's 10,000 blue whales spend time in the waters off the West Coast of the Americas and are known as the eastern North Pacific population. The huge whales can travel from the Gulf of Alaska all the way down to an area near the equator known as the Costa Rica Dome.

The majority of the population spends the summer and fall in the waters off the U.S. West Coast, with the areas most heavily used by the tagged whales occurring off California's Santa Barbara and San Francisco, which puts them in constant peril from ship strikes.

"During one year, while we were filming the documentary, five blue whales were hit off of southern California during a seven-week period," said Mate, who directs the Marine Mammal Institute at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore.

"Blue whales may not be as acoustically aware as species that rely on echolocation to find prey and there is some evidence that the location of the engines in the rear of the ship creates something of an acoustic shadow in front of them, making it hard for whales to hear the ship coming.

"Putting some kind of noise deterrent on the ships isn't really an option, however," Mate added. "You don't really want to drive endangered whales out of their prime habitat and best feeding locations."

Moving the shipping lanes would not be unprecedented, the researchers note. Scientists brought concerns about right whale ship strikes in the Bay of Fundy to the International Maritime Organization, and the industry led the effort to modify shipping lanes in the North Atlantic more than a decade ago.

Daniel Palacios, also a co-author on the paper and a principal investigator with OSU's Marine Mammal Institute, said vessel traffic between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles moved south of its current location in the past to comply with the California Clear Air Act, but shifted back to its current location after getting an exemption to the legislation.

"It is not often that research results are so applicable to a policy decision." Palacios said, "It's not really our place to make management decisions, but we can inform policy-makers and in this case it is pretty straightforward. You will eliminate many of the ship strikes on blue whales by moving the shipping lanes south of the northern Channel Islands."

The solution for the San Francisco area is similar, the researchers note, though not quite as simple. Three separate shipping lanes are used in the region and all cross through the home range and core areas of blue whales tagged in this study.

"We did find that the northernmost shipping lanes crossed the area that was most heavily used by tagged whales," Irvine noted. "Restricting use of the northern lane during the summer and fall when more whales are present is one option; another would be to extend one lane further offshore before separating it into different trajectories, minimizing the overlap of the shipping lanes with the areas used by blue whales."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is planning a review of shipping lanes in the southern California area, which will be informed by this study. A variety of stakeholders must be consulted, however, before any changes are implemented.

.


Related Links
Oregon State University
Follow the Whaling Debate






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





WHALES AHOY
Whales as ecosystem engineers
Burlington VT (SPX) Jul 04, 2014
"Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part," wrote Herman Melville in Moby Dick. Today, we no longer dread whales, but their subtlety remains. "For a long time, whales have been considered too rare to make much of a difference in the oceans," notes University of Vermont conservation biologist Joe Roman. That was a mistake. ... read more


WHALES AHOY
Nepal Army gets emergency bridge kits

Death toll rises, blackouts remain in Philippines after typhoon

One dead as hundreds flee false tsunami alert in Philippines

After MH17 tragedy, Australia assures search for MH370 goes on

WHALES AHOY
Sandstone arches formed by gravity and stress, not erosion

19th Century Math Tactic Tweak Yields Answers 200 Times Faster

Diode laser strong enough to cut metal developed by former MIT scientists

Romanian city opens plastic bottle bridge in litter protest

WHALES AHOY
Street fishing thrives in waterways of Paris

Sharks are Collateral Damage in Commercial Fishing

New water balance calculation for the Dead Sea

Mixing it up: Study provides new insight into Southern Ocean behaviour

WHALES AHOY
Climate change ravaging Antarctic fur seals: study

Climate-cooling arctic lakes soak up greenhouse gases

Tracking the breakup of Arctic summer sea ice

High-Flying Laser Altimeter To Check Out Summer Sea Ice

WHALES AHOY
Beef's environmental costs far outweigh poultry, pork

McDonald's earnings edge lower on tepid gobal sales

China meat scandal spreads to Japan in Chicken McNuggets

China detains five in expired meat scandal: police

WHALES AHOY
Taiwan battens down for Typhoon Matmo

Is the US National Flood Insurance Program Affordable?

Magnitude 6.2 earthquake hits off Japan's northeast coast: USGS

Super Typhoon Rammasun hits southern China

WHALES AHOY
South Africa sets 5 years to stem military decline

Pedaling solutions to Dar es Salaam's mega-city woes

South Africa jails rhino poacher for 77 years

Nigeria air force helicopter crashes in restive region

WHALES AHOY
Study cracks how the brain processes emotions

Neandertal trait raises new questions about human evolution

Low back pain? Don't blame the weather

Virtual crowds produce real behavior insights




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.