The International Maritime Organisation agreed to consider a proposal to move a busy Traffic Separation Scheme out of Sri Lanka’s territorial waters, despite Sri Lankan objections.

The plan to move the TSS is intended to benefit endangered blue whales, which are attracted to the existing TSS area to feed on plankton and are all too often hit by passing ships. The area just south of Sri Lanka is among the busiest maritime thoroughfares in the world. This TSS sits midway between Malacca and Bab el-Mandeb, and it sees more than 100 merchant ship transits per day.

This traffic passes through an area of coastal upwelling, which produces a natural abundance of food for baleen whales (and an abundance of fish for Sri Lankan fishermen). The whales congregate near the surface to feed, and the recovery of carcasses on shore and at sea suggests that a substantial number are dying from interaction with ships’ propellers.