BEACON TRANSCRIPT – After noticing bizarre injuries on whales swimming near the New England coast, researchers discovered that they often crash into boats traveling into the Gulf of Maine. Then, they started paying more attention to these collisions and developed a study on the phenomenon.
This study was published in the journal Marine Mammal Science. It all started when a group of researchers from Whale and Dolphin Conservation group observed that the whales living near the Gulf of Maine had some injuries. After their form, they suspected that these injuries could only be caused by collision with boats.
Injuries on whales indicate that they might be clashing with boats
Thus, they decided to study the behavior of the whales and find out what was actually happening. Their results showed that around 15 percent of the mammals which come in the area of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire end up crashing into boats. Such events must be taking place every spring, as the whales are known to come in the area to feed.
This is problematic not only for the whales, but also for the people on the boat. Alex Hill, the lead author of the study, said that a more thorough study of the phenomenon might help them find solutions for both the whales and the boaters.
“Long-term studies can help us figure out if our outreach programs to boaters are effective, what kind of management actions are needed and help to assess the health of the population.”
Some oppose this impact hypothesis
However, not everybody agrees with the results of the study, and one of the opponents is Scott Kraus, the main scientist at the New England Aquarium. He fears that the scientists involved in the study might have overinterpreted the injuries found on the whales. Thus, the number of strikes between boats and whales might not actually be that big.
This does not mean that the study should be ignored. Kraus says that the situation is still concerning and the research should continue. There have been many debates on the issue, and scientists are still trying to establish if these clashes have a negative impact on the whale populations.
A study from 2014 claimed that introducing shipping lanes might reduce the impacts between whales and ships. These lanes were introduced in the eastern part of the North Pacific, where many blue whale populations lived. However, they discovered that clashing with boats did not bring any significant harm to blue whales.
Image Source: NOAA