Whale ‘Highways’ Are Being Destroyed by the Fishing Industry

Forwarded by Judith Hope. Original here: https://www.speciesunite.com/news-stories/whale-highways-are-being-destroyed-by-the-fishing-industry

By Amy Jones, Feb 19,2022

Whales are facing ‘alarming threats’ from fishing gear and ghost nets, a new WWF report warns.

The world’s whales are facing increasing threats in their key habitats and the ‘blue corridors’ they use to migrate, warns World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

A new report from the wildlife conservation organization details that whales are encountering many growing threats in their critical ocean habitats – locations where they feed, mate, give birth, and nurse their young – and along their migration superhighways or ‘blue corridors’.

To identify the mounting threats that whales face along the superhighways, WWF and marine scientists used satellite tracking data from 845 whales worldwide collected over the past 30 years to create the first-of-its-kind whale migration map. 

This map highlights the growing dangers they face from human activity, both in their critical habitats and during migration along coasts and across oceans such as the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic. 

By far the deadliest threat facing these marine giants is the fishing industry, with the entanglement in fishing gear and “ghost nets” – fishing equipment which is lost or abandoned in the sea – responsible for the death of around 300,000 whales each year, according to the report. 

Ship strikes, chemical plastic, noise pollution, habitat loss, and climate change are also factors in creating a hazardous and sometimes fatal obstacle course for whales, said Chris Johnson, Global Lead for whale and dolphin conservation at WWF. 

Six of the 13 great whale species have been categorized as endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a result of these threats, despite decades of protection following commercial whaling. The highly critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, which migrates between Canada and the United States, is one of the most vulnerable populations. It is at its lowest point in 20 years – numbering only 336 individuals. 

A disturbing 86 percent of known right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once, and between 2017 – 2021, 34 North Atlantic right whales died off the Canadian and United States coasts due to ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.

In light of the report, WWF is calling for urgent action to safeguard whales amid mounting threats along their migratory routes. 

“This report presents some of the most comprehensive data to date on large scale movements of whales through the world’s oceans,” said Dr. Margaret Kinnard, WWF Global Wildlife Practice Lead. “The emerging picture underscores the need for swift, concerted action and investment of resources from national governments, international bodies, local communities, industry and conservation groups like WWF to stop this underwater assault on whales and protect these critical blue corridors.” 


Comment 1: as a frequent recreational sailor in the waters of Gardiners Bay (between the South and North Forks) I have gotten my rudder or keel entangled by fishing gear (lobster pot lines presumably) at least once every year. Why should this not also happen to whales? DP

Comment 2: The WWF fund Blue Corridors report (69 pages) is quite amazing and highly recommended, especially the maps/charts of whale migrations: https://www.wwfca.org/en/protecting_blue_corridors/

About D. Posnett MD

Emeritus Prof. of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College
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2 Responses to Whale ‘Highways’ Are Being Destroyed by the Fishing Industry

  1. Mary Foster Morgan says:

    Thanks David, an important story. Great whales are vital to our climate health. One is worth a thousand trees in carbon storage (IMF). They boost phytoplankton populations, the base of the ocean food chain and which contribute to half to the Earth’s oxygen (NOAA). An economic value of $1 trillion has been placed on protecting great whales by the IMF. What can I do? Locally refuse plastic, clean our beaches, sign petitions by Oceana, Center for Biological Diversity, and lower your shipping footprint — buy local (not shipped). Support the WWF

  2. Important comments, Mary. THANKS. Especially like your recommendations:
    1. locally refuse plastic,
    2. clean our beaches,
    3. sign petitions by Oceana, Center for Biological Diversity
    4. lower your shipping footprint
    5. buy local (not shipped)
    6. Support the WWF


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