A team of scientists has unveiled that the number of boat collisions which affect whales has recently increased off of the New England coast. They focused on the population of humpback whales which lives in the southern Gulf of Maine. This represents a body of water off the coast of Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire. Approximately 15% of the whales swimming to New England every spring to search for food has experienced injuries due to boat collisions.
Boat collisions appear to be more common than specialists have ever thought
Researchers have released their new study in the March issue of the Marine Mammal Science magazine. The research suggested that they had underestimated the occurrence of these vessel strikes before while more and more whales were affected by these boats. Scientists also claimed that the figure they have might be lower because this does not include the whales which are killed in boat collisions.
Alex Hill, the lead author of the new study and a scientist with conservation group Whale and Dolphin Conservation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, explained that vessel collisions represent a great threat to humpback whales but also to boaters. Studies developed in longer terms could help researchers unveil whether their outreach programs are efficient for boaters. They would also like to establish what management actions need to be implemented and what they should do to assess the health of the whale population.
Authorities should implement more boating regulations to avoid affecting the population of whales
Another group of researchers has also examined if the vessel collisions are bound to affect the populations of whales while this subject reached to be a source of many debates. A study from 2014 when 171 whales in the eastern North Pacific were examined, indicated that changes which occurred in shipping lanes could determine a reduction of the likelihood of boat collisions. Nevertheless, another study which was published in the Marine Mammal Science in 2014 revealed that minimizing the number of boat strikes would have a slight impact on the population of blue whales.
Based on the data revealed by a report in the Journal of Marine Biology, off the coast of Alaska, about 25 out of 108 whale collisions which happened between 1978 and 2011 led to whales’ death. When developing the study in the Gulf of Maine, researchers discovered that over 200,000 photos of 624 humpback whales were reviewed to assess their injuries. Authorities should think about implementing new management actions in areas where the whale population is increased.
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