Vessel strikes with whales in Alaska appear to be increasing
August 30, 2010
Photo courtesy NOAA
"This 30-foot long male had marked internal injuries, bruising and hemorrhage indicative of death by high impact, blunt force trauma" said Dr. Kate Savage, a veterinarian with NOAA who led the necropsy.
Researchers will try to identify the whale by comparing markings on its tail fluke to photos in Southeast Alaska humpback whale catalogues. They also collected one of the whale's eyes, which can be used to determine the whale's age.
Reported incidents of vessel strikes with whales in Alaska appear to be increasing in recent years. At this stage, it is difficult to determine whether this is due to a greater reporting effort or whether it truly reflects an increase in incidents. Regardless, the incidence of collisions is likely to increase in the future, as the North Pacific humpback whale population continues to recover at the same time numbers of vessels in Southeast Alaska are also increasing. Currently, more than 3,000 humpback whales swim in the waters of Southeast Alaska, where nearly 80-percent of Alaska's reported whale-vessel collisions occur.
To protect humpback whales and reduce the risk of strike, NOAA Fisheries asks mariners to slow their speeds when traveling through known whale waters, and/or when whales are sighted nearby. This is crucial for large and small vessel alike; about half of reported whale strikes in Southeast Alaska involve small private recreational vessels.
Sightings of whales or other marine mammals in distress can be reported to the NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Hotline at (877) 925-7773.
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