Leading tanker operator Euronav has instructed all of its captains to adhere to voluntary whale-protection measures in three critical habitat areas: the Canadian East Coast, the California coast and the Hellenic Trench. The Antwerp-based carrier has teamed up with the Great Whale Conservancy (GWC), an environmental non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of great whales.
Two endangered species, the North Atlantic right whale and the Eastern Mediterranean sperm whale, are especially known to be affected by ship strikes.
Whales experienced a massive decline in numbers due to industrial whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries until an international ban was imposed in 1986. Today, only about 400 right whales are still known to have survived.
Standard voluntary measures for shipping in the vicinity of key whale habitat areas exist, but are not universally respected.
“Our ships will stay out of critical habitats where these whales breed, feed and nurse their offspring,” said Euronav CEO Hugo De Stoop. “These deviations have very little negative economic impact for shipowners, including ourselves, so avoiding these areas is really a question of paying attention to the issue rather than making a big economic sacrifice. These three areas are the start, but we are looking into other regions around the world where our ships regularly pass.”
In the 2022 Instructions to Masters, Mr. De Stoop said that his hope is that other shipping companies will follow suit if the policy turns out to be straightforward to implement. If it works in practical application, it could prompt policymakers to make the measures mandatory and ensure a level playing field for all ship owners.
“If other shipping companies follow Euronav’s lead, we will be more than happy to assist them. We have the scientific and nautical experience in our team to assist any shipping company in this matter. We strongly believe that this problem can only be solved from within the industry,” said Michael Fishbach, founder of the Great Whale Conservancy. (Photo Nick Hawkins, Oceana)