A pillar of warm air and vapour bursts out of the ocean, reaching three storeys into the sky. It is an exhalation from the blowhole of a blue whale – the largest animal to ever exist, and yet a species hunted nearly to extinction by commercial whaling.
While whaling has decreased dramatically over the past century, six of the 13 great whale species remain endangered and continue to face multiple human-induced threats, one of which is massive cargo ships. Busy shipping routes often traverse whale habitats in coastal areas, and ships can unintentionally hit and kill whales while the animals are feeding, migrating, resting, mating or socializing.
Not only beautiful and awe-inspiring, whales are important components of a healthy and productive planet. They promote thriving ocean food webs, support coastal economies, and even help mitigate climate change. An economic evaluation found that when combining whales’ carbon and ecotourism benefits, a