The magnificent blue whale, the largest mammal to ever live on Earth, roams the world's oceans with little to fear. But blue whales are at great risk of ship strikes where their feeding and migration areas on the West Coast overlap with busy shipping lanes near our ports. Just imagine a whale growing to 100 feet long, weighing upwards of 300,000 pounds, and potentially living to the age of 80 - crushed and killed by a cargo ship coming into port at 20 or mile miles per hour.
Before they were almost hunted to extinction in the 20th Century, there were an estimated 275,000 blue whales in our oceans; now only an estimated 2-4% of that number are left. The coast of California is blessed to host a significant part of the last remaining blue whales. As a Californian, I take deep pride in my state's rich marine environment including blue whales, so I'm an active partner in protecting them and the special places where they live along our shores.
Whale crosses in front of cargo ship, Santa Barbara (AP Photo/John Calambokidis, Cascadia Research)
Blue and humpback whales are so large that they have almost no natural predators. But they are no match for a cargo ship. In 2007, four blue whales were killed by ship strikes around the Santa Barbara Channel. In 2010, two blue whales as well as humpbacks and finbacks were killed in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast. Other whales may have been struck and sunk before their bodies were found. This is a tragedy that we must respond to.
For the past several years, as the Chairman of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, I have helped to lead a working group to protect whales found in the sanctuary waters surrounding San Francisco Bay. Working with the shipping industry and federal representatives, we proposed new routes and other measures for commercial shipping to avoid whale migration and feeding areas. Now, we have good news to report. The International Maritime Organization have agreed to these new routes in and out of the ports of San Francisco Bay, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. These positive steps have gained media attention and broad public support in California and around the world.
, Discovery News
, Marin Independent Journal
, etc.) I'm honored to have played such a role in this effort to protect some of the largest and most threatened animals on earth.