Protecting whales in the Hauraki Gulf
An initiative to reduce ship speeds in the Hauraki Gulf is making strong progress in its efforts to protect the local whale population.
Port of Auckland introduced the initiative three years ago, and has reported that ship speeds are down 25% while there have been no reported whale deaths in the past two years.
Tony Gibson, Ports of Auckland’s chief executive, said: “Operating sustainably and minimising our impact on the environment is very important to us.”
“The Hauraki Gulf/Tikapa Moana is not just an important shipping route, it is a home for wildlife and a precious taonga. We take very seriously our responsibility to preserve the Gulf for future generations which includes helping to protect our local population of Byrde’s whales.”
In September 2013, Ports of Auckland, in collaboration with the shipping industry, developed a voluntary protocol aimed at reducing the number of collisions between whales and ships.
The voluntary protocol has four key elements. Ships were asked to travel as close to 10 knots as their schedule allows, use the recommended approach route to the Ports of Auckland and keep watch for whales and take avoiding action if whales are sighted. As well as report whale sightings to Ports of Auckland Harbour Control.
The protocol is founded upon scientific evidence showing that 10 knots is a safer travelling speed around whales, but it is also designed to allow flexibility when schedules are affected by weather, for example.
Dr Rochelle Constantine from the University of Auckland, added: “the development of an inclusive, multi-agency process supported by good science allowed a rapid response to protect our resident whales.”
She concluded: “The mortality rate of this small population of whales was probably unsustainable prior to the shipping industry’s commitment to slow down, but now these whales have a more certain future and I am pleased we achieved this result.”
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