Endangered blue whales tracked in new study

Data could reduce collisions with ships

SAN DIEGO - The Navy is funding a study to track blue whale and fin whale movements in Southern California to better understand where their feeding grounds are and if they intersect with shipping lanes.  

"Where do the whales go the most and are they going to the same places as they did in previous studies," said Chip Johnson, a staff Navy marine biologist.

The research is being done by a team from Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute. The project began July 31 and there are early indications things are different.

"There is some evidence at least in Southern California of some real changes," said Bruce Mate, the director of the OSU Institute.

Mate said his group is seeing fewer blue whales then they have previously and that the lower numbers are a growing trend.

The Navy has a vested interest as it conducts training off Southern California.

The results of the study will be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries. The blue whale is the largest mammal on earth, which can be the size of a basketball court and weigh as much as 25 elephants combined.

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