Blue Whale "Hot Spots" Overlap With Shipping Lanes, Raising Threats
Ship strikes may be preventing blue whale populations from bouncing back.
Blue whale numbers have ticked up since 1966, when the International Whaling Commission enacted protections for the endangered species, but their populations haven't rebounded as quickly as expected.
There were about 4,900 blue whales in the North Pacific before commercial whaling fleets around the world set their sights on them in the early 20th century; now there are about 2,500 in the Eastern North Pacific.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, found that blue whales frequent "hot spots" that intersect shipping lanes near the Channel Islands off Los Angeles and the Farallon Islands off San Francisco every summer.
Despite rules governing vessel speeds within shipping lanes in those areas, as well as observation systems designed to spot whales