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SA companies urged to become 'whale safe' and avoid deep-sea collisions

Collisions kill an estimated 20,000 whales annually worldwide

24 January 2022 - 12:44
The carcass of a whale being towed out of Table Bay.
The carcass of a whale being towed out of Table Bay.
Image: Colin Greyvensteyn

Many maritime companies pride themselves on workplace safety, but are they “whale safe”?

Italy-based sustainability organisation Friend of the Sea is still waiting for its first whale-safe signup after launching last year. The organisation promotes ocean sustainability via a certification system for various industry activities, from fishing to aquaculture.

To date two SA companies have joined, one for aquaculture and the other for fisheries, but so far nobody is whale safe.

The whale campaign targets mainly shipping and cruise line companies to save whales from collisions.

“Due to SA’s long coastline and large population of humpback whales, it is a particularly important story to share in the region,” said Friend of the Sea spokesperson Alessandra Marra.

“To be certified, companies must commit to a designated list of sustainability requirements. For whales, these include slowing down in high-risk areas, collaborating with research institutions to report whale sightings and many others.

“Compliance is verified via a yearly external audit and [in some cases] the use of CCTVs on board vessels. This is true for both the whale safe certification and our more well-known fisheries and aquaculture certifications,” she said.

Whale collisions pose a threat to shipping and ocean conservation efforts. Experts fear many collisions go unreported. As many as 20,000 whales are killed annually in shipping collisions, according to Friend of the Sea.

“Various conservation organisations consider this one of the top threats to the species.”

Shipping companies are ranked in terms of their efforts to reduce strikes, and collision high-risk areas have been identified.

SA marine biologists report an encouraging increase in humpback numbers in recent years, with a large “super-pod” moving along the Atlantic seaboard.

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