WHALE SUPERHIGHWAYS

Whales are facing increasing dangers along their migrational journeys. Learn how we can protect our ocean giants and make their epic journeys safer for years to come.

Why whales need our help

Growing evidence shows thriving populations of whales are essential to a healthy ocean and planet. The benefits they provide – from capturing carbon to enhancing marine productivity – only strengthen the case for protecting them.   

Despite the vital role they play in the health of our planet and our lives, whales are facing a barrage of growing threats from humans. 

While the global moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 allowed some populations to recover from the brink of extinction, some have not. Six out of the 13 great whale species globally are now classified as Endangered or Vulnerable – including southern right whales that migrate along the Australian coast. 

All around the world, mounting threats from human activities are making migrations between feeding and breeding grounds increasingly dangerous for whales. 

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The biggest threats to Australia's whales

Climate change

 Climate change is shifting prey populations, making it harder and harder for whales to find food. Warming waters are also causing sea-ice levels to fluctuate across Antarctica – directly impacting the number of krill available, the primary food source for whales and other marine animals, disrupting the timing of important life events such as migration and resulting in the decline of critical sea-ice habitats that protect them from predators.

Growing ship traffic

An ever-expanding fleet of ship traffic (linked to increasing exports of natural resources) in seasonal humpback breeding grounds and along migration routes is increasing ship strikes and underwater noise pollution for Australia’s whales.

Offshore oil and gas drilling

Oil and gas exploration and extraction disturb whales and their prey through underwater noise pollution, construction of supporting infrastructure, oil leaks, associated shipping and the potential for large, catastrophic oil spills. The seismic noise used for offshore oil and gas is much louder and more intense than acoustic mapping for offshore wind.

What are whale superhighways?

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© WWF

Whale superhighways – or blue corridors – are migration routes that allow whales to move between different ocean habitats – areas where they feed, mate, give birth, nurse young, and socialise. Whales rely on these critical habitats and the migration routes that connect them for their survival.  

Whales travel these migration routes often along the coast, but also across the open ocean, in and out of international and national waters – some for thousands of kilometres each year. Sadly, these paths often overlap with human activity, endangering whale populations in these areas. 

Mapping of global whale superhighways by WWF and partners is helping to identify where migratory routes and key habitat areas overlap with a range of emerging and cumulative impacts - helping inform how we can better protect and manage critical ocean habitats for whales worldwide.

Learn more about superhighways here

What WWF is doing to help

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Safeguarding whale superhighways to protect existing whale populations and connect their critical habitats and migration corridors.

Southern white whale with calf= South Australia
© Fredrik Christiansen / Murdoch University

Calling on the Australian Government at all levels to play its part and build on its track record of protecting whales to:

  • Reduce fisheries bycatch and implement whale-safe fishing gear. 
  • Set mandatory ship slow-down rules and other measures to reduce underwater noise and risks of ship strikes. 
Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) calf male with injured pectoral fin and scarred body= with mother in the Pacific Ocean
© naturepl.com / Tony Wu / WWF

Recognising the critical role Traditional Owners and local communities play in protecting and managing the marine environment and supporting their aspirations to do so.