This stressful animation reveals the obstacle course of a whale trying to feed itself in an area with heavy maritime traffic.

As we all know, human activities are not without consequences for flora and fauna. In the Gulf of Ancud, near Chile, for example, blue whales pay the price for an often heavy maritime traffic. In fact, it has become very difficult for these poor animals to feed themselves, as we can see in this very disturbing animation shared by the Live Science site.

The animation revealed was made by researcher and doctoral student Luis Bedriñana-Romano, in close collaboration with the Universidad Austral de Chile (AUC) in Valdivia, as part of a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

When foraging for food turns into an obstacle course …

This is a scientific visualization that represents the movements of a blue whale in an area where maritime traffic is really strong, between March 22 and March 29, 2019. We can see a blue shape (the whale) that zigzags with difficulty between orange shapes representing the boats that circulate in the area. As you can see, searching for food is a real obstacle course for the poor whale.

In summer alone (its migration period), a blue whale can see up to 1,000 boats per day on its hunting grounds! The vessels in question are mostly Chilean aquaculture vessels carrying personnel and various supplies.

Scientific visualization of the movements of a blue whale in an area with a lot of maritime traffic. The blue form is a whale that tries to feed while avoiding boats in the Gulf of Ancud near Chile. Image credit © Luis Bedriñana-Romano

Reforming maritime traffic to preserve whales?

In an email exchange with Live Science, Luis Bedriñana-Romano indicated that in developing this rather disturbing animation, he wanted above all to “show an overview of the density of the ships [auxquels] whales are exposed ”, but also to sensitize local authorities to the situation.

In fact, he and his colleagues are suggesting that officials could use this map of high-risk areas for whales. Thus, they could divert vessel traffic from the oceanic areas most frequented by blue whales. This would protect this marine species (currently in danger of extinction), but would also safeguard its oceanic habitat.

“Now at least we know where to start looking for problems because we have defined the hot spots where interactions are likely to occur,” said Luis Bedriñana-Romano. It remains to be seen whether the authorities will take the results of their investigation into account …