We work to address the four most pressing human-caused hazards to whales, with a primary focus on preventing ship strikes.

  1. Prevent ship strikes on whales
  2. Prevent entanglements
  3. Eliminate plastic
  4. Reduce / stop noise that harms marine mammals

Preventing ship strikes on whales

All over the world, marine traffic intersects with crucial whale habitat, with vessels killing and injuring these endangered and critical species. Whale experts estimate that thousands of whales are killed globally each year. This means that some species cannot recover and in some areas, they are highly endangered or nearing extinction.

The shipping industry transports around 90% of global trade. We need to create a future where nature’s behemoths of the sea – the great whales – can survive and thrive alongside our global shipping industry. Our ship strike strategy  looks to:

  • Support and conduct targeted data collection to inform decision-makers of solutions.
  • Educate, advise, and influence stakeholders who can modify shipping lanes or movements.
  • Recognize and publicize successes to reward stakeholders and incentivize more progress.
  • Galvanize public awareness about the value of preserving this keystone species.

We have developed a responsible shipping position paper which supports:

  • Seasonally or permanently shifting shipping lanes away from all identified “critical great whale habitat.”
  • Restricting traffic at night when whales are surface feeding
  • Reducing ship speeds (only partially effective)
  • Creating and monitoring marine protected areas and areas to be avoided (ATBAs)

Preventing Entanglements

More than 300,000 cetaceans die as a result of entanglements in nets annually. While the vast majority of those are dolphins, far too many are also whales. GWC has saved a humpback whale during our field season in 2011. [Link to Saving Valentina]. While we cannot always save whales directly, we report sightings of entanglements to the appropriate authorities, and support/collaborate with the work of the Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) as they dive and haul “ghost nets” out of the sea in the Pacific. The GWC and ODA have strategized about how to get fishing and crabbing nets out of the most popular routes of transiting or feeding whales off the coast of California.

Eliminate Plastics

The GWC contributes to stopping plastic pollution in two ways. We partner with Ocean Alliance (OA) in their scientific work to measure plastic levels in whales feces. We provide OA with feces samples of several species of whales, collecting them during our annual field season, using a strict protocol for collection. This feces is then frozen and transported to a lab in California. There it is processed with the specific goal of identifying the number of micro-plastic particles per gram of feces.

We also regularly participate in public and policy talks with Bonnie Monteleone of the University of North Carolina/Wilmington and support her efforts to minimize the use of single-use plastics thereby minimizing the amount of marine plastic debris. https://www.plasticoceanproject.org/

Noise Pollution Harms & Kills Whales

Great whales evolved to communicate both long distances and short distances with sound. Human-caused noise now fills the oceans – seismic and sonor tests and global shipping – interfering with whale’s capacity to communicate and navigate, as well as inuring and killing whales. GWC supports other groups who are working to reduce or stop noise in whale-sensitive areas.