Ship strikes on large whales: Sri Lankan blue whales within a global context. By Susannah Calderan on Thursday the 10th December 2020, at 6 pm via Zoom
One of the major threats to large whales globally is being struck by ships, which can cause severe injuries and death. These incidents happen throughout the world’s oceans, but particularly in areas where shipping and whales are concentrated. Sri Lanka is renowned for its blue whales, but their habitat lies within one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. This lecture will look at ship strike problems elsewhere in the world such as the west and northeast coasts of the US, and the Mediterranean. I will look at the types of ships and whale species most commonly involved in collisions, and the scientific research we are undertaking to understand the problem. I will discuss the types of measures which can be taken to mitigate the risk, such as slower speeds and re-routing of ships. I will describe the research we have carried out in Sri Lanka in collaboration with the University of Ruhuna to understand blue whale distribution of the south coast and assess the ship strike risk. Ship strikes south of Sri Lanka mainly affect blue whales, but also other species such as sperm whales. The problem is particularly acute in Sri Lanka as the shipping lane runs through an area of high biological productivity, so not only are whales affected by the high level of shipping traffic, but also local fishermen and whale watch boats.

Susannah Calderan is a marine mammal ecologist and Honorary Research Fellow at the Scottish Association for Marine Science. She specialises in acoustic studies on whales, and the impact of human activities on whales such as ship strikes, underwater noise, and fisheries bycatch. Her work in acoustics has involved several Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research projects investigating blue whales, with the British Antarctic Survey and Australian Antarctic Division. She has been involved in blue whale research in Sri Lanka for several years, with a primary focus on resolving the blue whale ship strike problem.

The WNPS Public lecture is supported by Nations Trust Bank and open all.
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