Dangers along whale superhighways

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A new collaborative report from WWF has called for urgent action to protect whales from increasing threats during their migrations.

The ‘Protecting Blue Corridors’ report provides the first-ever detailed look at whale migrations and visualises satellite tracks of 845 migratory whales worldwide. It outlines how these animals are encountering multiple and growing threats in critical ocean habitats.

In particular, the report highlights human impact in the oceans, including ship strikes, pollution and industrial fishing. These threats create a dangerous and life-threatening obstacle course for whales as they migrate to and from feeding and breeding grounds.

Data collected across 30 years by 50 research groups was analysed for the report which highlighted hotspots and risks that whales navigate on their migrations, some of which can be thousands of kilometres each year.

As a result of the devastating threats these animals face, 13 of the great whale species are now classified as endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). One of the species most at risk is the endangered North Atlantic right whale, which makes the journey from Canada and the United States every year. Across four years, 34 North Atlantic right whales died off the coasts of Canada and the United States from entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes. There are now as few as 336 individuals of this species, which is at its lowest population size in 20 years.

The ‘Protecting Blue Corridors’ report has called for a new approach to conservation on local, regional and international levels so that whales can be protected against the increasing number of threats they face as they migrate through waters across the world. Of particular importance is engagement with the United Nations as they set to finalise negotiations on a new treaty for the high seas (Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction) in March 2022.

The benefits of the blue protected corridors will extend further than protecting whales. These animals are ecosystem engineers, playing a vital role in the health of the ocean and our global climate - one whale can capture the same amount of carbon as thousands of trees.

The full report can be read on the WWF website here.

The threats faced by whales and dolphins are a global problem. The only way to protect them is to identify areas where they’re vulnerable. That way, work can be done to protect these places by changing the way these habitats are used. Will you consider supporting our vital work so we can protect whales and dolphins for future generations?

You can help by giving us a donation. Whatever you can give, however large or small, will contribute to the protection of our oceans and the beautiful creatures that inhabit them.

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