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Reducing Collisions between Ships and Whales


The Benioff Ocean Initiative is excited to announce that we have chosen our first crowd-sourced ocean problem: Reducing collisions between ships and whales. We will be committing $1.5 million to accelerate research aimed at finding and implementing new solutions for this problem.

Whale conservation was a key theme in many of the submitted ideas. We specifically drew inspiration for the project from “Reduce collisions between whales and ships” and “Protecting blue whales and blue skies”.

Ship strikes are cited as a top source of mortality for a variety of at-risk whale species and believed to be a major obstacle in preventing their population recovery. Researchers estimate that over 80 endangered whales are killed by ship strikes every year off the U.S. west coast alone. Losses of these marine megafauna are significant, as whales play important ecological roles as movers of nutrients, consumers of prey, and engineers of marine ecosystems.

The Santa Barbara Channel is home to important blue whale feeding grounds, and they seasonally aggregate there during the summer months. The Channel is also a major shipping route, making blue whales a species of particular concern with regard to vessel strikes. Scientists have found that blue whale mortality from ship strikes is almost 8 times greater than the acceptable limit for sustained population growth – a matter of consequence for a species whose abundance today is at 3-11% of its historic pre-industrial level.


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