Cargo ships to lobster boats a lethal threat to right whales, study shows | Local | News

Vessels, large and small, and moving at different speeds can be fatal to right whales, a Dalhousie University study shows.

“What this work showed is that if you are on a vessel on the ocean, a large or fast- or slow-moving vessel or even a seemingly small lobster boat, you can be a risk to right whales,” said Sean Brillant, one of the research team leads on a study published recently in Marine Mammal Science. 

“Nobody can assume that they are not a threat to the whales,” said Brillant, a senior conservation biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation and an adjunct at the university.

“We point out that these lobster vessels at full speed could be lethal if they run into a whale. There is no free pass there, they can’t just assume that they are OK. Similarly, we showed that large vessels are much less safe, even at speeds that we thought would be safer speeds (10 knots). The problem with killing whales by running ships into them is not going to be solved by slowing ships down. We need to find ways to separate ships from whales.”

Any vessel greater than 13 metres, including crab boats, are considered larger vessels while most lobster boats fall in the small vessel category, Brillant said.The research team from the university’s Oceanography department, including co-lead Dan Kelley, a physical oceanography at Dalhousie, used information about right whale anatomy and Newtonian mechanics to construct biophysical models that predict the stresses whales experience during collisions.

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