Some human-related threats to endangered large whale species are diminishing, and a number of large whale populations are increasing in abundance. However, injuries and deaths resulting from ship collisions with whales remain a significant threat. In North Atlantic right whales, for example, ship strikes are a primary culprit in the slowed recovery of a highly depleted population.
Several papers provide accounts of mortality in large whales due to ship strikes (Laist et al., 2001; Best et al., 2001; Knowlton and Kraus, 2001). These papers review ship strike records through 2000, 1997 and 1999, respectively. We have built on these accounts by assembling a data base of all known ship strikes worldwide through 2002; a number of our records do not appear in previous accounts. Likely, many ship strikes go undetected or unreported as they may occur in remote areas or struck whales may drift out to sea. Thus, the actual number of strikes is undoubtedly much greater than reported here. Nonetheless, the information we provide is, to our knowledge, the most comprehensive set of data to date on this subject. In the geographic scope and in the range of species effected, the data base illustrates the extent of the threat to large whale species.
The intention of this report is to make accessible the known information on ship strikes to large whales world-wide. We have not attempted to provide an extensive analysis of such records herein, as a thorough discussion of a number of these records can be found in Laist et al. (2001). Rather, we have synthesized ship strike reports to large whales into a comprehensive database to centralize the knowledge base of such incidents. These records indicate that collisions between whales and ships are a world-wide phenomenon which warrants attention.