Whales get new crossing rights in the Bay

Despite their massive size, whales are still no match for cargo ships when pitted against one another.

For this reason, new sea lanes enacted Saturday will divert and rework the paths of ships visiting California’s coast to avoid collisions with these endangered animals.

The whales are typically drawn to California’s coast for krill and sometimes wind up at the sharp end of a massive ship’s prop. It is estimated that there are around 2,000 blue whales, 2,000 fin whales and 2,500 humpback whales living in the northeast Pacific who need protection.

The new shipping lanes stem from a two-year study where federal maritime officials joined the shipping industry and environmentalists to come up with ways to prevent these deadly accidents.

TL Garrett, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, told KTVU:

“We are in full agreement with the shipping changes as they will help assure the protection of both human and marine life, and the continued safe and efficient flow of commerce in and out of California ports.”

In addition to the new shipping lanes, aerial studies will help determine where whale and ship traffic intersect. Onboard whale sighting reports will also help reduce fatal collisions.

However, some say more needs to be done. John Calambokidis, a Washington-based scientist who assisted the effort, told the Associated Press:

“This will be a significant improvement, but it will only result in a modest reduction in ship strikes and there are a number of additional steps we need to take to make more progress on this.”

The new shipping lanes will be implemented in the San Francisco Bay, the Santa Barbara Channel and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.