The increasing size of commercial shipping fleets and the ever higher velocity of ferries and recreational boats result in rising numbers of ship collisions with cetaceans. Not only do these cause severe injuries or even death to the animals, they are also dangerous for smaller vessels, their crews and passengers. Ship strikes may be happening more frequently than previously suspected. As a general rule, struck and killed whales and dolphins are not found and big commercial ships may not actually detect the collision. Ship strikes pose a serious threat, especially in the case of endangered species or isolated populations. Known cases of collisions get reported by the ASCOBANS Parties in their Annual National Reports.

The results of a research project commissioned by ASCOBANS in 2008 allow a better understanding of the effect of shipping traffic on small cetaceans within the ASCOBANS Agreement Area. The final report of this study can be accessed here will greatly aid development of conservation measures to minimize ship strike accidents.

Under the leadership of the Conservation Committee Working Group on Ship Strikes of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), a standardized global database of collisions between vessels and whales has been developed. The database includes information on the whales (e.g., species, size, observed injuries) and on the vessels. It clearly identifies the level of uncertainty in each case. This database allows more accurate estimates of the incidence of mortality and injuries, helps to detect trends over time, permits better modelling of risk factors (e.g., vessel type, speed, size) and is valuable for identifying high risk or unsuspected problem areas.

Please report any collisions with cetaceans to the IWC!