Trueman/Telegraph-Journal A Canadian scientist says moving ships farther away
from Grand Manan has not increased the hazard to other whale species such as
the finback, and humpbacks, like this one photographed in the Bay of Fundy in
Bay of Fundy
shipping lane changes
prove more effective than expected
Two thirds of world's 300-350 remaining right whales feed in
It looks like last
year's change in Bay of Fundy shipping lanes could provide even more help to
the highly endangered right whale than scientists had hoped for.
Biologists at the Centre for Coastal Studies, in
Provincetown, Mass., were hoping the move would cut whale collisions here by 80
per cent. Instead, they now think the reduction is closer to 95 per cent.
"We're literally trying to save right whales one at a
time," said Moira Brown, whale biologist and senior scientist with the New
England Aquarium, in Boston.
"I know that sounds
clichéd, but when you only have 300 animals in the world, you are
working on an individual basis."
The population lies
somewhere between 300 and 350 whales, and up to two-thirds of them feed in the
Bay of Fundy in late summer, she said.
and the International Maritime Organization took the shipping routes going to
and from the Port of Saint John and moved them six kilometres to the east last
summer, in an effort to get them away from the Grand Manan feeding ground where
right whales congregate in summer.
scientist, who also heads the right whale project at the Centre for Coastal
Studies, says moving ships farther away from Grand Manan has not increased the
hazard to other whale species like the finback and humpback. The new routes
still don't go near the feeding areas of these other species, she
A cruise ship arrived in Saint John on Sunday with
a dead finback whale lying across the underwater bulbous part of the vessel's
bow. Not even the crew of Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas had noticed the
mishap until the ship came into port.
Ms. Brown said the
location where this happened could be determined by checking the engine-room
log for the point at which fuel consumption increased, if the dead whale
created extra drag.
Because no known right whales have
been struck by ships in the Bay of Fundy since the routes were changed, the
scientists calculated their new probability estimate by counting sightings of
right whales in the area.
Only 1.5 per cent of Bay of
Fundy right whale sightings were made along the new route last summer, and this
was fewer than the scientists were predicting from their 14 years of
whalesighting data. The old lanes contained 30 per cent of sightings. Although
these results are preliminary, the scientists will soon be ready to add this
year's sighting counts to their statistics.
believe the population could slowly start to improve if collisions could be
reduced by two a year. But bending the Bay of Fundy shipping lanes is just the
start of work needed to preserve this slow-moving, docile, 17-metre giant from
obliteration, she says.
The animal's migration stretches
all the way from the Bay of Fundy to calving grounds off Florida. And Ms. Brown
says there is a need to cut down the collision hazard at every major port from
Florida to Portland, Me.
To this end, the first in a long
series of meetings between scientists, government and the shipping industry in
the U.S. is set to take place this week in Boston, she said.
Ms. Brown spoke Monday while getting ready to give an
address this week to a conference of the Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership, in