You'd think that a blue whale, weighing a whopping 200-tons, would be mostly safe from predators because of its sheer size. But one predator seems to be able to kill the largest animals on earth in a fleeting instant -- humans.
Blue whales populations have been slowly crawling back towards recovery since they gained protection from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1966, having been decimated by whaling in the 1900s. Now, they're facing a new, dire threat -- ship strikes from commercial vessels.
A new study published this week in the journal PLOS One used satellite data to determine that blue whale "hotspots" overlap alarmingly with shipping lanes near the Channel Islands off Los Angeles and the Farallon Islands off San Francisco every summer.
There are systems in place already of large commercial vessels to avoid collisions with ships, like speed limits and alarm systems. But those aren't enough, according to the new study, because whales are still getting hit. And despite their size, a blue whale is no match for a 220,000-ton cargo ship.