Great Whale Conservancy
The North Atlantic Right whale and the Eastern Mediterranean Sperm whale are classified as “endangered” by the IUCN and there is clear evidence that both species are negatively impacted by shipping activity including ship strikes. Moving ships away from critical habitats is essential to mitigate the risk for these animals and give the population a chance for survival. To protect these endangered creatures, Euronav has teamed up with the Great Whale Conservancy (GWC), an environmental NGO dedicated to the protection of great whales and their habitat, to investigate how ship strikes can be avoided.
A first result is the inclusion of the voluntary measures of the Canadian East Coast, the waters around California (USA) and the Hellenic Trench in the 2022 Instruction to Masters, making the measures de facto mandatory for its vessels.
Secondly, beginning of 2022 Euronav became the first industry member of the Whale Guardian Program, an international project initiated by the GWC for whale ship strike prevention.
“Euronav wants to set the example for the industry,” says Hugo de Stoop, CEO of Euronav. “We have looked into the different voluntary measures and the commercial impact for our operations is insignificant, whereas the impact for the local whale habitats is huge. If large ships stay out of the critical breeding and feeding habitats of these magnificent animals, we can reduce the ship strike problem drastically and improve the quality of life of those mammals so that they can mate and gradually grow their population. These elementary measures are the right thing for us to do as a responsible ship owner. We claim that the ocean is our environment, so we must live up to that standard. That is also why we are the first industry member of GWC’s recently launched Whale Guardian program. We hope that other shipping companies will follow our steps in protecting these endangered species. If the industry shows that these measures are easy to implement, this will be a clear sign for policy makers to pass the necessary legislation and ensure there is a level playing field for all ship owners, not just the ones that take corporate responsibility seriously.”
Whales are an irreplaceable component of the ocean’s capacity to regulate the atmosphere
Whales are critical to a sustainable ocean and a liveable planet because they are ecosystem engineers. Not only do they capture carbon dioxide in their bodies, but they also fertilise the ocean with their nutrient rich excrement which is essentially a phytoplankton farm. These microscopic creatures thrive on it. Phytoplankton also need to absorb carbon dioxide in surface waters to grow, so the more phytoplankton, the more capacity is created in the ocean. Phytoplankton already captures 40% to 60% of all carbon produced on our planet using solar energy to do their own photosynthesis (that is the equivalent of 1.7 trillion trees). Consequently, the more whales, the more phytoplankton, the more carbon dioxide can be absorbed. It is simply protection and restoration of a lost ecosystem.
For more information:
- www.whalesave.com - which checks the adherence percentage of ships following the voluntary measures in California
- Financial Times: What if the Whales Could Save Us? | Rethink Sustainability
- Terra Mater: Why Thousands of Whales Die Every Year