Whales Spotlight: Protocol has slowed ships in New Zealand

A Bryde’s whale © Tony Wu. A small, critically endangered population of Bryde’s whales live in the Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand, where they are at risk of collisions with ships.Back in 2012 the Ports of Auckland introduced a voluntary protocol for ships coming in and out of Auckland. The purpose was to protect whales from ship strikes, which had taken a heavy toll on this population. The protocol included reducing ship speeds to reduce risks to whales. Much like accidents involving pedestrians on our roads, the speed at which a ship is travelling greatly affects the likelihood of a whale surviving a collision.

Since the protocol was introduced, IFAW has been working with the shipping industry and other interested groups in New Zealand to encourage ships to slow down to protect whales. Over that time, we’ve been monitoring ship speeds to measure compliance with the protocol.

As of last month, average speeds (of ships over 70m long – those of greater risk to whales) have reduced to 10.6 knots, from 14.2 knots before the protocol was introduced.

Scientific evidence shows that 10 knots is a safer travelling speed around whales, while still practical for shipping, with whales having about 70 percent chance of surviving a collision at that speed. By contrast, only 30 percent of whales hit at 14 knots or more will survive.

It will take a few years to be sure that the protocol has led to a definitive reduction in ship strikes in Hauraki Gulf but these early signs are very encouraging. IFAW welcomes the responsible approach of the Ports of Auckland and shipping industry and we look forward to working with them to sustain the progress achieved so far.


Post a comment


Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime