A Canadian professor of marine biology says ship speeds need to be reduced in Arctic waters to protect mammals such as belugas and bowhead whales.
Professor Lauren McWhinnie of the University of Victoria, British Columbia led a study that warns that shrinking Arctic sea ice is enabling greater shipping traffic and that is having harmful effects on social behaviour and life expectancy of the whales.
Writing in Ocean and Coastal Management, Prof McWhinnie calls for precautionary measures to limit the impact of noise and ship impacts on the whale population.
Belugas and bowheads need quiet environments in which to communicate and forage.
The University of Victoria research recommended that a voluntary exclusion zone and a voluntary speed reduction zone would be the most effective ways to reduce ship strikes and noise levels.
And the study found the measures would be most effective on large and fast vessels travelling further from shore rather than smaller community boats operating closer to shore.