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THE GERMAN Shipowners Association (VDR) has recommended its more than 150 member companies reroute their ships to reduce the risk of collision with whales.

The decision follows engagement with a coalition of environmental NGOS, which requested VDR move its ship routes away from sperm whales’ habitats in the Hellenic Trench in the eastern Mediterranean, and from blue whales’ habitats off the south coast of Sri Lanka.

The Hellenic Trench has been identified as a critical habitat for the last remaining 200 to 300 sperm whales in the area.

Environmental NGOs said sperm whales feed and breed in the Hellenic Trench area. They said it is also currently in the direct path of busy shipping routes.

Similarly, in the Indian Ocean, a small population of blue whales is active off the southern tip of Sri Lanka. International shipping in this area threatens the local whale population.

“We openly received the NGOs’ proposal and discussed it with our members,” VDR CEO Martin Kröger said.

“The response was clear: to protect the whales, we are all ready to take a minor detour there.”

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VDR is now reportedly asking its members to reroute their vessels to help reduce the risk of whale strikes.

“Whales are being found dead on the shore with propeller marks and cuts in both Greece and Sri Lanka, but these animals are just the tip of the iceberg,” the NGO coalition said.

The coalition said scientists estimate up to 20 times more whales die offshore and are never recorded.

“It is our fear that without urgent action, deaths through ship strikes will cause these already small populations to go extinct very soon.

“We are excited about VDR’s recommendation to their members, and hope that these companies operating in these high risk areas will implement the suggested re-routing measures very soon. We also urge all other shipping companies and shipping associations to follow the lead of VDR.”

The environmental coalition comprises the International Fund for Animal Welfare, OceanCare, Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute and WWF Greece.

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