En­dan­gered whales sur­vive

Central Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - STAFF REPORTER

Mea­sures to lower the num­ber of whales killed by ships us­ing the Hau­raki Gulf are ’’mak­ing solid progress’’ - with no recorded whale deaths in the last two years.

Pre­vi­ously, an av­er­age of two whales died an­nu­ally from be­ing hit by ships mo­tor­ing into and out of the gulf, but the last whale death from ship strike was re­ported in Septem­ber 2014.

The vol­un­tary ini­tia­tive was brought in three years ago by the Ports of Auck­land and the ship­ping in­dus­try.

It in­cluded mea­sures to lower ship­ping speeds, stick to de­fined ap­proach routes, bet­ter vig­i­lance for whales and re­port­ing of whale sight­ings.

It is ex­pected to have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion of crit­i­cally threat­ened Bryde’s whales.

‘‘The mor­tal­ity rate of this small pop­u­la­tion of whales was prob­a­bly un­sus­tain­able prior to the ship­ping in­dus­try’s com­mit­ment to slow down, but now these whales have a more cer­tain fu­ture,’’ Rochelle Con­stan­tine, of the Univer­sity of Auck­land, said.

About 50 Bryde’s whales are es­ti­mated to live year-round within the Gulf; gorg­ing on schools of bait fish and krill and mix­ing with an­other 150 sea­sonal visi­tors.

But a col­li­sion be­tween the 12m long, 12 tonne whale and a large ship has an 80 per cent chance of be­ing fa­tal.

Slow­ing down to 10 knots re­duces the chance dras­ti­cally, to 20 per cent.

’’Op­er­at­ing sus­tain­ably and min­imis­ing our im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment is very im­por­tant to us,’’ Ports of Auck­land chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Gib­son said.

‘‘The Hau­raki Gulf is not just an im­por­tant ship­ping route, it is a home for wildlife and pre­cious taonga.

‘‘We take very se­ri­ously our re­spon­si­bil­ity to pre­serve the Gulf for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, which in­cludes help­ing to pro­tect our lo­cal pop­u­la­tion of Bryde’s whales.’’

Be­fore the pro­to­col was in­tro­duced, more than half of the ships calling at Ports of Auck­land trav­elled faster than 14 knots.

Now the av­er­age ship speed has dropped from 14.2 knots to around 10.5 knots.

‘‘It’s heart­en­ing for all those in­volved in spear­head­ing this ini­tia­tive to see such a high level of par­tic­i­pa­tion from our ship­ping part­ners,’’ said Gib­son.

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