Narwhals and Bowhead whales threatened by new Arctic shipping routes

A NASA-funded study has warned that marine creatures like whales and dolphins will be exposed to greater threats from boat traffic as sea ice continues to melt in the Arctic.

The study found that narwhals in particular would be under threat as new shipping lanes opening up as a result of sea ice melting due to global warming. Some scientists predict that even the North Pole may be passable within a matter of decades.  

Narwhal
Narwhal

The rise in the number and huge size of these vessels crossing the Arctic is a real threat to whales and dolphins because they are often unable to avoid ships. In most collisions, a whale struck by a ship is killed or left severely injured. Increased boat traffic also creates noise pollution, driving whales away from areas important to their survival.

Narwhals would be especially vulnerable in the future because they tend to stay in specific areas and, according to Dr. Kristin Laidre, a polar scientist at the University of Washington, “they live in only about a quarter of the Arctic, and they’re smack dab in the middle of shipping routes”.

Other Arctic whales, such as bowheads would be at risk as they move slowly and ship strikes are already a major cause of death for them.

The scientists urged policy makers to use their research to create new guidelines that will minimize harm to Arctic creatures – such as ships avoiding key habitats, taking into account migration routes, setting maximum noise levels, and in general help ships detect and deviate from whales.

WDC is working with international bodies and on projects to reduce vessel collisions all around the world, including in areas where whales or dolphins are particularly vulnerable.

We have to act now to stop this increase in whale and dolphin injury and death from collisions with ships. With your support we can continue this good work and prevent more of those needless deaths. Donate or fundraise now.