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Belgian shipowners bring life-sized blue whale on European tour to raise awareness on fatal whale accidents

Together with the Great Whale Conservancy, the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association (KBRV) are bringing a life-sized replica of a real female blue whale on a European tour to raise awareness about what the shipping industry and policymakers can do about the high whale fatalities.

On Thursday 13 June 2024, the KBRV will place Star, the name of the female blue whale in the square in front of the Antwerp Central train station. The whale measures 26m long, 5m wide and 5m tall. The public will at last be able to witness the majestic dimensions of these largest animals on our planet.

“Whales are crucial in our fight against climate change. Through their defecation, whales support the growth of phytoplankton, which stores a significant percentage of all carbon produced. A small increase in phytoplankton productivity will greatly enhance the oceans’ ability to sequester additional global carbon emissions. By helping whales return to their pre-whaling numbers of 4.5 million (up from their 1.3 million today), we are enhancing the oceans’ ability to help us fight global climate change,” said Michael Fishback, Co-Founder of the Great Whale Conservancy and the Whale Guardians.

But thousands of whales perish every year due to fatal collision with ships, entanglements in fishing nets, and indirectly from sound and plastic pollutions.

If these magnificent animals are going to survive, they will need citizens, activists, the shipping industry, regulators and the media to speak and work on their behalf.

“Belgian shipowners are passionate about the issue. At the last European Shipping Summit, the KBRV organised a workshop for the European shipping industry and EU policymakers about what shipping can do to avoid whale strikes. But having legislation passed not just in Europe, but also around the world, is going to take time. This is the reason why the Belgian shipowners have brought Star first to Belgium, in the context of the Belgian Presidency of the EU, to highlight the urgency of the problem,” explained Wilfried Lemmens, KBRV Managing Director.

While global legislation is the best solution, shipping companies can already put in place certain measures, as attested by Basile Aloy, CEO of EBE:

“Contrary to what some believe, the costs involved are limited. At EBE, by integrating whale database into our navigation system, we managed to avoid whale migration routes and feeding and mating grounds. We have so far made very small deviations of less than 20 nautical miles over long voyages and with minimal speed reductions of 10 knots in short stretches of confined waters.”
Source: Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association (KBRV)

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