Incidence of Ship Strikes of Large Whales in Washington State

Ship strikes of large whales cause mortalities worldwide, but there is uncertainty regarding the frequency and species involved. We examined 130 records (from 1980–2006) of large whale strandings in Washington State. Nineteen strandings (seven species) had evidence of ship-strikes. Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) had the highest incidence of ante-mortem ship strike (five of seven, with the remaining two possibly post-mortem) and all but one occurring since 2002. Six grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus) suffered ‘possible ship strike’ injuries, likely the result of their large numbers in the area, rather than high levels of ship strikes. Only one possible ship-struck humpback whale was recorded, despite concentrations of humpbacks feeding within shipping lanes in this region. This study shows dramatic differences in occurrences of ship-struck large whales by species, which we believe results from a combination of species’ vulnerability to ship strikes, and how likely a struck whale is to be caught up on the bow of a ship and brought to waters where it can be examined.


Douglas, A.B., J. Calambokidis, S. Raverty, S.J. Jeffries, D.M. Lambourn, and S.A. Norman. 2008. Incidence of Ship Strikes of Large Whales in Washington State. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 88(Special Issue 6: Marine Mammals): 1121-1132. doi: 10.1017/S0025315408000295

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