Collisions between ships and whales (‘ship strikes’) are regularly reported throughout the world’s oceans. In the majority of cases, the outcome is fatal; non-fatal incidents typically result in major injury or physical trauma. At the population level, ship strikes can be an impediment to whale population growth due to the removal of individuals or the reduced reproductive fitness of survivors. This is of particular concern for small, threatened populations and/or those utilising ‘high risk’ areas where high numbers of both whales and ships occur simultaneously.
We are currently working on quantifying vessel-collision risks for large whales. Behavioural analyses will assess fine-scale behaviour of whales during vessel encounters, whilst density-surface models will be used to identify high-risk areas.
Mr James Robbins (PhD student, University of Portsmouth) is leading a project investigating the risk of ship strike for fin whales in the Bay of Biscay.
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
University of St Andrews