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Shipping lanes change in hopes of saving whales

Lanes for cargo ships off the coast are changing and it could mean more whales in the water.

Since the beginning of June, shipping lanes were moved away from whale feeding grounds. Experts hope this change can help save the endangered whales.

The Central Coast is rich with sea life, especially near the Channel Islands. Some of the biggest creatures travel along the channel to feed. It’s the same path that was used by cargo ships until now.

“Through our research, we’ve noticed high concentrations of blue whales along the northern edge of the Channel Islands. And the new shipping lane adjustments, will move the lane one nautical mile away from these concentrations of whales, increasing the distance between ships and whales,” said Andrea Dransfield with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Experts hope that distance will reduce the number of ship strikes. That’s when a ship hits a whale and it can cause blunt force trauma.

“The ship strike issue is often out of sight and out of mind, until we have an incident where a whale washes ashore, or we get a whale coming into port on a bow of a container ship,” said Dransfield.

Less ship strikes could help the dwindling whale population rebound.

In 2007, four blue whales were killed by ships around the Santa Barbara Channel.

“That really just inspired everyone, like we’ve got to do something. So we’ve been working really hard since then,” said Dransfield.

Now the whales will have some feeding room.

Last year, the International Maritime Organization, which governs shipping worldwide, adopted the lane change.

The move will not affect the distance the ships travel up and down the coast.

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