New scientific paper emphasizes the major welfare concerns related to boat strikes on whales

March 5, 2023

Sadly, many whales are struck each year by boats and as shipping has increased, so have these ship-strikes. Many whales are killed outright in such encounters but some, with varying degrees of wounding, survive. This new research is the first attempt to consider the severity of ship-strikes on whale welfare. Twenty-nine experts from around the world were consulted on six hypothetical but realistic case studies involving humpback whales struck by ships. They were asked to evaluate these scenarios using the ‘Welfare Assessment Tool for Wild Cetaceans’ (WATWC).

This study highlighted the severity of these collisions to whales’ welfare concluding that struck whales may suffer some level for the rest of their lives, even if the incident is not fatal.

Mark Simmonds, who is the OceanCare Director of Science and one of the three authors of the paper, comments: «Our paper shows ship-strikes to be a significant welfare concern supporting the need to take this into account in issues related to the routing and speed of vessels at sea. It also provides some recommendations about how similar welfare assessments of wild whales may best be conducted.»

The paper was published in the journal Animal Welfare and can be freely accessed here: