Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are distributed worldwide, and although severely depleted by commercial whaling, their abundance off the California coast now appears to be increasing. Little is known about natural causes of mortality of blue whales, but human-related mortality continues despite legal protection. Ship strikes are a significant mortality factor for other species of baleen whale, and changes in shipping traffic have been advocated to minimize further deaths. Between 1988 and 2007, 21 blue whale deaths were reported along the California coast, typically one or two cases annually. Three pulses in strandings were observed, with three carcasses observed in fall 1988, three in 2002, and four in fall 2007. Two of the four animals in 2007 were first observed dead in the Santa Barbara Channel and had wounds typical of a ship strike. Blue whale strandings were spatially associated with locations of shipping lanes, especially those associated with the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and were most common in the fall months.
Berman-Kowalewski, M., M.D. Gulland, S. Wilkin, J. Calambokidis, B. Mate, J. Cordaro, D. Rotstein, J. St. Leger, P. Collins, K. Fahy, and S. Dover. 2010 Association between blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) mortality and ship strikes along the California coast. Aquatic Mammals 36(1): 59-66.Download PDF
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