Major tanker operator Euronav has asked all of its captains to adhere to voluntary whale protection measures in three critical habitat areas, the company announced last week. The order applies to protected areas on the east coast of Canada, the California coast and the Hellenic Trench, and aims to minimize ship strikes and associated whale mortality.
Two endangered species, the North Atlantic right whale and the eastern Mediterranean sperm whale, are known to be affected by ship strikes. Standard voluntary measures for navigation near key whale habitat areas exist, but are not universally followed. Euronav plans to change this – initially in three regions, with the hope of expanding to cover more.
“Our ships will stay out of the critical habitats where these whales breed, feed and feed their offspring. These deviations have very little negative economic impact for ship owners, including ourselves, so avoiding these areas is really a matter to pay attention to the problem rather than make a big economic sacrifice,” Euronav CEO Hugo De Stoop said. “These three areas are the start, but we are looking at other areas of the world where our ships pass regularly. “
De Stoop said he hoped other shipping companies would follow suit if the policy proved simple to implement. If it works in practice, it could spur policymakers to make the measures mandatory and ensure a level playing field for all shipowners, he said.
Euronav worked with an NGO, the Great Whale Conservancy, to identify the first areas to protect.
“If other shipping companies follow Euronav’s example, we will be more than happy to help them. We have the scientific and nautical experience in our team to help any shipping company in this matter. We firmly believe that this problem can only be solved from within the industry,” said Michael Fishbach, founder of the Great Whale Conservancy.