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Many species of whales and dolphins are vulnerable to collisions with vessels. Most reports of collisions involve large whales but collisions with smaller species also occur.  Collisions with large vessels often either go unnoticed or unreported, particularly for the smaller species. Animals can be injured or killed; and vessels can sustain damage.  Serious or even fatal injuries to passengers have occurred involving hydrofoil ferries, whalewatching vessels and recreational craft.

The IWC and ship strikes

The IWC is addressing the problems caused by ship strikes through the work of its Conservation and Scientific Committees.

More details of this work can be found here

Quantifying the problem

Every year, the IWC’s Scientific Committee considers methods of estimating the number of whales killed from ship strikes. This is not a simple issue.

You can read more about this work here

Mitigation measures

There is no universal solution to the problem of ship strikes but clearly the most effective way to reduce collision risk is to keep whales and ships apart. Work on a number of approaches to mitigation is underway but it is essential that measures are carefully evaluated and monitored to ensure that they are working as expected. This work needs to be undertaken in a collaborative way as whales are found within and outside national boundaries. The IWC is working in conjunction with other important bodies such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and further advice to reduce the risk of collision has been produced. You can read this advice here (Also available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish).

More information can be found here

What can you do to help?

Ship strikes is an international problem that requires improved knowledge of the behaviour and movements of cetaceans and vessels and a much better understanding of the numbers of collisions and the circumstances surrounding those. The IWC is committed to collecting and collating such information to be able to prioritise areas and species for targeted mitigation measures. A vital component of this is the IWC ship strikes global database.

The global database: a tool for the past, present and future

The IWC has developed a standardized global database of collisions between vessels and whales and an online public data entry system for submitting reports.

If you have information relating to a collision between any type of vessel and a whale, dolphin or porpoise please click here to enter your information.

This will open a form that will guide you through the data entry process. Your information will then be passed to the data review group who may wish to ask additional questions.

To find out more about the database click here

National and Regional Cetacean Stranding Networks

Many countries have regional or national strandings networks which maintain records of all stranded cetaceans and where possible ensure that sufficient data are collected to ascertain cause of death. In recognition that ship strikes are one of the reasons for cetacean strandings, a revised list of cetacean stranding networks is provided here for information. If you see cetaceans on the beach then you are urged to contact your local strandings network.  This global list was last updated in March 2011 and contains additional networks and contact information. Further additions or amendments should be notified to the Secretariat.