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CA Shipping Lanes Adjusted
updated: Dec 27, 2012, 11:53 AM

Source: National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration

Shipping lanes to be adjusted to protect endangered whales along California coast

Busy shipping lanes off the California coast, including routes that cross three national marine sanctuaries, will be adjusted to protect endangered whales from ship strikes.

Last month, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which governs shipping worldwide, announced it adopted three proposals deemed necessary to improve navigational safety and to reduce ship strikes on the approach to San Francisco Bay, the Santa Barbara Channel and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Vessels in these areas also travel through NOAA's Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Channel Islands national marine sanctuaries where blue, humpback and fin whales feed and congregate.

"This is a win-win situation, backed by NOAA research, that allows for enhanced protection of endangered whales and natural resources while at the same time increasing maritime safety," said William J. Douros, west coast regional director of NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. "We are pleased with the shipping industry and the IMO's decision to support the proposed amendments."

"The collaboration between NOAA and the Coast Guard in reviewing and modifying these vessel traffic separation schemes demonstrates the strong working relationship between our two agencies," said Rear Admiral Karl Schultz, Eleventh Coast Guard district commander. "The modifications to the traffic lanes balance the safe and efficient flow of commerce within and between our nation's ports, with NOAA's goal of reducing whale strikes from vessels."

Slow-moving whales are highly vulnerable to ship strikes, since many of their feeding and migration areas overlap with shipping lanes. In 2007, four whales (all blue whales) were killed by confirmed or likely ship strikes in and around the Santa Barbara Channel. In 2010, five whales (two blue, one humpback, and two fin whales) were killed by confirmed or likely ship strikes in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast.

Extending the three lanes in the approach to San Francisco Bay is expected to reduce interactions between ships and whales within Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones national marine sanctuaries. According to the IMO decision, the lane extensions will improve maritime safety in the area by keeping vessels on a dedicated route through prime fishing grounds, which will reduce interaction between fishing vessels and commercial ships.

The proposed vessel lane changes in the Santa Barbara Channel and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary narrow the overall width of the existing lanes and shift the southbound lane one nautical mile north. This change will move vessels away from an area used by feeding blue and humpback whales.

The vessel lane changes are anticipated to take effect in 2013. Blue, humpback and fin whales are protected by the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

In 2007, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries worked to shift shipping lanes in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Massachusetts. This modification now protects endangered whales in the sanctuary and has reduced the risk of ships striking whales by 81 percent.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia/.

On the Web: Sanctuary Ship Strike information: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/protect/shipstrike/welcome.html Shift in Stellwagen Bank shipping lanes: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/news/top40/14_shipping_lanes.html

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 357616 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-27 12:42 PM

This is a good thing. Some times crossing the channel to the islands can be so busy with whales doing whale stuff that we literally have to drive around them.We have had to stop altogether to avoid hitting them or scaring them.Sometimes it is a great show. If you go to you tube and put in skipjack262 in the seach bar,you can see an example of a time we just had to stop because there were so many whales.Worth every minute.The naration is kind of goofy and off the cuff so I apologize up front for that.


 COMMENT 357619 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-27 12:48 PM

This seems to primarily a political news announcement. The title says that CA Shipping Lanes Adjusted. However there is no mention of the route change. The story speculates on the great saving of endangered whales. We all want to save the whales. Are we too ignorant to understand the altered route?


 COMMENT 357621 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-27 12:54 PM

What do you mean "no mention"? The entire Press Release was a mention. Your indignation is comical.


 COMMENT 357629P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-27 01:18 PM

A very good thing, indeed! Thanks to EDC and other environmental organizations that worked for this. (I am not a member of the EDC but credit where credit is due.)


 COMMENT 357635 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-27 02:09 PM

They should move the whales off to the south of the islands so the big chinese ships can continue to pollute our near-shore air and water.


 COMMENT 357649 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-27 03:57 PM

China should get a littering ticket with each boatload of crap they send.


 COMMENT 357688P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-27 06:19 PM

Read again 619, the info is all there...the shipping lanes in SB will be narrowed, and the southbound lane will be moved 1 nautical mile north.


 COMMENT 357709 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-27 07:22 PM

Meh. No political will to reroute the lanes to the OUTSIDE of the Islands because that would add additional distance, time, and cost. This is a feel good move only.


 COMMENT 357743P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-28 03:35 AM

Shoot. When I read the lead-in, I thought the decision would be for outside the Islands. What a drag.


 COMMENT 357767 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-28 08:16 AM

Oustside the islands would have been better, but this will save some whales so that is good.


 BECKY agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-28 12:58 PM

As a subscriber, I can post this link (alluded to above -- encounter with whales in the channel): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6J0jUU2bbY
That is definitely one of those magic moments to treasure for all time. So cool! I am envious.


 COMMENT 357893P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-28 02:16 PM

Thanks, Becky. The narration really spoils it.


 COMMENT 357904 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-28 03:07 PM

649- Look at the bright side, there are far fewer ships of imported junk coming here than before due to our thrashed economy. That equates to fewer wal-mart killed whales.


 COMMENT 357913 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-28 03:35 PM

893 i thought it was funny.


 COMMENT 357937 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-28 04:10 PM

Stop buying Chinese crap and BMWs and iPhones and anything made of metal or fabric. Er, nevermind.


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