Simple actions can be taken to prevent the deaths of whales, sharks and other ocean giants caused by collisions with ships. David Sims of the Marine Biological Association, Plymouth, GB, and colleagues argue this in a commentary in “Nature” this week. “Humanity and some of the world’s most charismatic wildlife are on a collision course in the oceans,” they write.

The world’s merchant fleet – from oil tankers to container ships – has doubled in just 16 years. Between 2014 and 2050, maritime traffic is expected to increase by up to 1,200 percent. These numbers, combined with data on where shipping lanes overlap with movements and aggregations of marine animals, along with assessments of the effects of ship collisions on specific species, present an alarming picture, the authors explain.

The data suggest that “ship collisions could contribute to population declines in many animals, leading to profound effects throughout their ecosystems.” Sims and co-authors argue, however, that compared to other threats to marine biodiversity such as pollution and climate change, the problem of ship collisions is manageable.

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