Thursday, 4:30 PM
Shipping lanes may give way to whales
By Beth Daley, GLOBE STAFF
In ship-versus-whale encounters, whales invariably lose. This time, score one for the whales.
This week, the International Maritime Organization, based in London, is expected to vote to shift the busy shipping lanes off Massachusetts up to 10 miles north and narrow them by a mile to reduce collisions with whales -- the first time such a detour would be enacted in US waters to protect an endangered species.
The move, government scientists say, will reduce the risk of ship strikes to the North Atlantic right whale by up to 60 percent and other large baleen whales by as much as 81 percent.
"This makes it more possible for whales and ships to coexist," said David Wiley, research coordinator for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the person who came up with the idea.
The US government has been trying to make the change for several years and has documented the vast number of right whales and other large whales that feed and frolic smack in the middle of the current shipping lanes off Massachusetts. Ship strikes, along with tangles with fishing gear, are some of the greatest threats to the world’s remaining 350 North Atlantic right whales.