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Material Properties of Right Whale Bone and Soft Tissue in the Context of Fatal Blunt Trauma

Michael Moore and regina Campbell-Malone, Biology Department, WHOI

Awarded:  May 2004

Between 1970 and March 2004, 13/33 (39%) of necropsied North Atlantic right whales were diagnosed with lethal trauma resulting from a ship strike: unpublished data and (Knowlton and Kraus 2001, Moore et al. 2003). Management programs on industry have ranged from the Right Whale Mandatory Ship Reporting System to rerouting of ships to avoid critical habitat (Subcommittee on Safety of Navigation 2002) or speed restrictions (Brown 2003). Such efforts potentially impact multiple industries including commercial shipping and fishing as well as passenger transport operations (e.g. ferries and cruise ships). Analysis of ship-strike events suggest that 12 to 14 knots is the speed above which collisions are fatal (Laist et al. 2001). Present management efforts would benefit from new perspectives on the speed that a vessel of a given mass would have to keep to avoid inflicting lethal blunt trauma during a collision with a right whale.

Last updated: October 22, 2008