February
19th 2009
Tracking Endangered Whales

Posted under news

I was very encouraged to see a story on CNN.com today titled “Volunteers, Scientists Guard Endangered Whales“.  The subject is still sobering – preventing fatal ship strikes from happening to the critically endangered North Atlanta right whale – but being on a popular news site means this is not just an issue of interest to those in the field.  Public awareness is growing, and that can only be a good thing.  The article also provide concrete examples of how non-scientists can play a key role in protecting these animals.  The more the merrier!  There’s no question that if I lived closer to any whale-traveled coast, I would be one of those on a high point with binoculars (and probably a camera) in hand to do whatever I could.  Hopefully, the more people know about where whales are found and how to spot them, the more other ship strikes, like this one involving a cruise ship, can be avoided.  CNN.com also has a story about spotting the whales from a plane – very interesting!  It includes a real world example of how close a boat can come to hitting a whale and how important the spotting is for preventing the collisions.

The story also talks about the persistent problem of fishing gear entanglement.  I don’t understand why there is not more effort on the part of the fishing industry to reduce the entanglement risk. I would think that the people who most rely upon the health of the oceans for the health of their income would want to do whatever is possible to ensure an overall robust ecosystem.  There are very interesting research projects happening to better track entanglement as it occurs so it can be prevented in the future.  I realize that fishing gear isn’t cheap, but losing it altogether to become endlessly dangerous ghost gear, can’t be cheap either so wouldn’t a solid investment now reap longer rewards?  I’ve heard on whale watches how there is a push to develop gear that would still be effective but less dangerous to whales and sea turtles. Hopefully that means more and more breakthroughs and innovation sooner than later.

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