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Whales and Sharks Must Be Protected from Global Shipping

By Vanessa Pirotta

Road ecology is being applied to shipping routes to stop marine giants from becoming “roadkill”.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

More than 80% of the world’s merchandise is transported by sea, but this comes at a cost to marine wildlife. Ships introduce oil and chemical pollution into the marine environment, emit greenhouse gases and other wastes, as well as noise pollution from ship engines.

Whales, basking sharks and whale sharks share similar traits that make them vulnerable to shipping activity. This includes their large body size, as well as time spent at the surface breathing (whales), feeding (some whales and sharks) and basking (sharks). They are also capable of long-range ocean movements that can cross many shipping routes.

We need to better understand how ships interact with these marine giants, many of which play important ecological roles within the marine environment. For example, whales are capable of moving nutrients and biomass through the ocean when their carcases fall to the bottom of the sea and via their bodily excretions.

While we have documented evidence of shipping impacts with some species, we know very little about impacts with others. To help better understand this knowledge gap, my colleagues and I have turned to the terrestrial world and sought help from ecologists who are studying the impacts of roads on the environment.

In a novel merging of disciplines, we applied road ecology to help better understand a number of impacts arising from...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.