Northeast
Moira Brown / New England Aquarium / Wikimedia Commons

NE - New Research Shows Even Small Ships Pose Deadly Threat to North American Right Whales

It has long been known that ship strikes involving large vessels pose one of the greatest threats to North Atlantic right whales, whose coastal habitats and tendency to stay close to the water’s surface make them vulnerable to such deadly collisions.

New research by Dal scientists suggests that the endangered animals can also suffer fatal injuries if struck by small boats or by large vessels travelling at slow speeds.

“We’ve shown clearly that small vessels can be a threat to whales. We’ve shown that very light, but fast-moving vessels like trans-oceanic racing sailboats can cause potentially lethal injuries to whales, so it means if you’re in a vessel on the ocean, you may be a threat to these animals,” says Sean Brillant, an adjunct in the Department of Oceanography.

“We also showed that there is indeed no safe speed for large vessels when it comes to whales and we are not going to solve the whale death problem from ship strikes simply by reducing speeds.”

Beyond broken bones

Dr. Brillant worked with Dan Kelley, a physical oceanographer at Dal, and former Dal student James Vlasic to construct biophysical models that predict the stresses whales experience during collisions.

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