Moves by Ports of Auckland and shipping companies to reduce the speed of ships travelling through the Hauraki Gulf are paying off, helping make life safer for the local whale population.
“Ports of Auckland aims to accommodate Auckland’s growing trade demands in a way that is sustainable,” said Chief Executive Tony Gibson. “We are working together with scientists, shipping companies, conservation and environmental groups, and government agencies to take proactive action to improve conditions for whales.”
In September 2013 Ports of Auckland released a protocol for ships transiting the Gulf which was designed to lower speeds and reduce the risk of collisions and whale deaths. Two years later and speeds are down 23%.
The voluntary protocol has four key elements. Ships are asked to:
• Travel as close to 10 knots as their schedule allows
• Use the recommended approach route to the Ports of Auckland
• Keep watch for whales and take avoiding action if whales are sighted
• Report whale sightings to Ports of Auckland Harbour Control
The protocol is based around scientific evidence showing that 10 knots is a safer travelling speed around whales, but it is also designed to be flexible, to allow ships to travel faster to keep to schedule if necessary. This is a balance which provides a positive environmental benefit at a reasonable economic cost and without disruption to vital supply chain links.
Prior to this industry initiative, ship speeds through the Hauraki Gulf averaged 14.2 knots. Speeds have come down gradually, with the average over the last two months now at 10.9 knots.
The proportion of ships travelling at low speeds has increased significantly. In 2012, 75% of ships travelled at over 12 knots but in 2015 this position is reversed: almost 80% of ships now travel at 12 knots or under.
“It is too early to say definitively that the protocol is successful in reducing whale deaths, but the fact that there has only been one confirmed whale death due to ship strike in the Hauraki Gulf area in the last two years is very encouraging. This compares to an average of two whale deaths a year before the protocol was introduced,” added Mr Gibson.
Matthew Collis, Campaigns Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), one of the NGO groups involved in the work, said:
“Ship strikes are a problem for whales all around the world and like pedestrians on our roads, speed is a critical factor in the chances of a whale surviving a collision. IFAW welcomes the responsible approach of Ports of Auckland and shipping industry in reducing the risk to whales; we look forward to working with them to sustain the progress achieved so far.”
Captain John Robinson, President of Shipping New Zealand said “The shipping lines which serve New Zealand all strive to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. The industry has got right behind this Ports of Auckland initiative and fully supports the effort to safeguard the Hauraki Gulf Bryde’s whales.”
Hauraki Gulf Forum Chair John Tregidga has convened eight collaborative group meetings over three years to build common understanding and commitment to action to reduce ship strike of Bryde’s whales.
“Ports of Auckland and shipping industry are demonstrating the leadership needed if we are to protect and enhance the iconic species and special qualities of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.”
• Visit this link for a copy of The Hauraki Gulf Transit Protocol
For further information contact:
Head of Communications
P: 09 348 5262
M: 021 495 645
Senior Communications Advisor
P: 09 348 5247
M: 027 809 2285