- The endangered right whale is to get extra protection after a safe haven from shipping was set aside off Nova Scotia in Canada.
- Despite being protected since 1937 the right whale is close to extinction, with scientists estimating a global population of only 400.
- The right whale is named as such because whalers considered them the “right whales” to hunt for their thick blubber, long baleen and because they floated when dead, making them easy to harvest. They can reach lengths of up to 18m (60 feet), weighing 30-80 metric tons.
- Collisions with container ships are seen as a key threat to right whales. It is close to a major shipping route between North America and Europe, and scientists say the slow-moving mammals have been killed in collisions with huge cargo vessels.
- The International Maritime Organization (IMO) ratified a Canadian proposal to designate the 1,800-sq-km zone an “Area to Be Avoided” at a meeting in Denmark. The new zone is in the Roseway Basin, south of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.
- The voluntary restriction asks ship captains to steer around the area.
- The restrictions will apply between 1 June and 31 December, when whales are known to congregate in the area.
- Canadian parliamentarian Gerald Keddy said he was “delighted” his government’s proposal had been backed by the IMO.
- Scientists with the Canadian Whale Institute called the move “a major step forward in helping the right whale to recover”.
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