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To Save Blue Whales, Shift the Shipping Lanes, Scientists Say

The shipping lanes that lead to Los Angeles and San Francisco could be tweaked to reduce the risk to blue whales, researchers say. The suggestion comes in the wake of a 15-year-long effort to track blue whales off the U.S. West Coast via satellite. Researchers found that heavily traveled shipping lanes crossed through the whales' favorite feeding areas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says at least 100 large whale ship strikes have occurred along the California coast from 1988 to 2012. In Los Angeles' case, "you will eliminate many of the ship strikes on blue whales by moving the shipping lanes south of the northern Channel Islands," Daniel Palacios of Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute said in a news release. The solution for the San Francisco area is similar. Such moves aren't unprecedented, and they can save whales. NOAA says the study, published in PLOS ONE, will factor into a review of southern California shipping lanes. In 2012, the International Maritime Organization shifted California shipping lanes to reduce whale ship strikes.

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