Friday, December 08, 2006

Shipping lanes shifting for whales!

Ah well this news is timely, seeing as we've been talking about whales a lot this week...

From London, England... the International Maritime Organization is expected to vote to shift the busy shipping lanes off Massachusetts up to 16 km (10 miles), north and narrow them by a mile to reduce collisions with whales - the first time such a detour would be enacted in U.S. 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.

Three years ago, the IMO, a United Nations agency, shifted shipping lanes in Canada's Bay of Fundy four miles east to protect right whales, the first time that a world shipping lane had been altered to protect an endangered species.

The U.S. government has been trying to do the same 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.

Redrawing lanes is not simple; changes must be submitted to the International Maritime Organization who can take more than a year to review requests and make a decision.

If the U.S. government request is approved, the shift will take place in June, 2007, to ensure there is time to make changes to navigational charts. An International Maritime Organization official said this week that a subcommittee on navigation and safety recommended the change and that such recommendations usually gain adoption by the agency.

Researchers at U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have discovered that whales tend to feed in two distinct areas that form an hourglass-like design off the U.S. coast.

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