Whales' deaths from human interaction highlighted in new study
In about 75 per cent of cases the whale's death couldn't be determined
A new report is shedding light on the impact humans have on whale populations the waters of Atlantic Canada and how it’s hurting struggling species.
Researchers from the U.S.-based Northeast Fisheries Science Center analyzed 300 deaths over a five year period, stretching from the gulf of Mexico up to the Atlantic provinces.
In the bulk of cases, about 75 per cent, the death couldn't be determined, but 60 whales were confirmed to have died from human interactions, including fishing gear entanglements and vessel strikes.
It’s worrisome for whale expert Andrew Reid of the Marine Animal Response Society.
“What we found for four of the large whale species off our shorelines, this would have a negative impact on the populations,” said Reid, who helped collaborate on the report.
Human interaction is particularly acute for struggling species.
“If you look at a species like the North Atlantic right whale there might be only 400 to 500 animals. Even one animal lost to human activity is preventing that population from returning to healthy levels,” said Reid.
Efforts like moving shipping lanes out of whales' migratory paths and shortening lobster fishermen's lines have cut back on their deaths.
Even so, Tonya Wimmer, manager of species Conservation with World Wildlife Fund Canada, says whales keep dying in waters off North America.
“For many of these species they come here every year regularly because this is where they feed or have their babies. They're in known particular areas. So there's an awful lot we can do to minimize the harm to them,” she said.
The study showed about five per cent of the wales in the case study died of natural cases.
Out of all the whale carcasses the researchers found, Humpback whales had the highest rate of mortality.