Whales off Africa increasingly encountering human activities

Feb. 6, 2014 at 5:48 PM
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NEW YORK, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Important whale habitats and migration routes off western Africa are increasingly overlapping with offshore ocean industries, U.S. conservationists warn.

Scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society, working with several U.S. universities, report humpback whales swimming off the coast of western Africa for mating and bearing young are having to share those waters with offshore oil rigs, major shipping routes and potentially harmful toxicants.

"Throughout numerous coastal and offshore areas, important whale habitats and migration routes are increasingly overlapping with industrial development, a scenario we have quantified for the first time in the eastern South Atlantic," Howard Rosenbaum, director of WCS's Ocean Giants Program, said.

Researchers have been tracking more than a dozen whales off the African coast using satellite tags affixed to the animals.

"Studies such as this one are crucial for identifying important habitats for humpback whales and how to best protect these populations from potential impacts associated with hydrocarbon exploration and production, shipping, and other forms of coastal and offshore activities," Rosenbaum said.

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