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Increase in Arctic shipping poses risk to marine mammals
Date:3/16/2012

laska and Russia on marine mammals, including the bowhead whale, beluga whale, walrus, several seal species, and polar bear.

In the past, multi-year sea ice in the Arctic basin that extended to both the Canadian and Russian Federation coastlines had been a serious obstacle for large ships.

"The disappearance of summer sea ice from the region's coastal areas is leading to major changes in this part of the world," said Dr. Martin Robards, Director of WCS's Beringia Program and one of the event's organizers. "The presence of large ocean-going vessels is expected to increase as the region becomes more attractive to both international shipping and extractive industries seeking minerals, oil, and gas. The northern sea route is 30 percent shorter than the comparable route linking northern Europe to Asia via the Suez Canal, which only supports the conclusion that the Bering Strait is likely to get busier. We need to ensure that the mutual interests shared by Alaska Natives and the conservation community for the health and safety of marine mammals are included in the protection of the region's natural resources."

A number of studies have raised significant concerns about the impacts from shipping and resource extraction on large whales. The North Atlantic right whale, a close relative of the bowhead whale, occurs in heavily industrialized waters of the East Coast of North America. Estimated to number only between 400-450 individuals, the North Atlantic right whale is threatened by mortalities from vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Based on scientific insights that reflected the needs of these whales, new speed restrictions, navigational alternatives, and vessel tracking systems in areas of importance to North Atlantic right whales were successfully implemented in Canadian and U.S. waters, minimizing the possibility of large vessels striking whales. Similar accommodationsparticularly in funnel areas such as th
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Contact: Stephen Sautner
ssautner@wcs.org
718-220-3682
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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