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Whales to gain Panama Canal traffic protection

Shipping lanes into and out of the Panama Canal are likely to be constrained in order to protect whales. Humpback whales breed around Las Perlas archipelago 60km (40 miles) from the canal’s southern entrance, and are disturbed and even killed by shipping.

Panamanian officials and scientists have developed a plan that would corral vessels into narrow lanes. They plan to present it for discussion and maybe adoption by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) next year. Details of the proposal were presented at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual meeting in Panama City.

Hector Guzman from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute drew up the plans following research comparing movements of ships with those of 15 humpback whales fitted with satellite tags.

Maps show the whales swimming throughout the Gulf of Panama, which lies outside the canal entrance on the Pacific Ocean side, repeatedly crossing the ships’ tracks.

“We recorded 98 interactions between whales and ships during an 11-day period,” he told BBC News.

“Just over half of the whales had encounters; one particular whale had 45 encounters in just four days.”

An “interaction” was defined as approaching within a distance of 200m – though the area has seen 13 whale deaths in the last two and a half years, some of which were probably as a result of being hit by a ship.

Source: BBC News

Category: World News |

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Last updated March 29, 2017 at 12:43 AM
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