Response of Commercial Ships to a Voluntary Speed Reduction Measure: Are Voluntary Strategies Adequate for Mitigating Ship-Strike Risk?

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Collisions between ships and whales are an increasing concern for endangered large whale species. After an unusually high number of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) were fatally struck in 2007 off the coast of southern California, federal agencies implemented a voluntary conservation program to reduce the likelihood of ship-strikes in the region. This initiative involved seasonal advisory broadcasts requesting vessel operators to voluntarily slow to 10 knots or less when transiting a 75 nm stretch of designated shipping lanes. We monitored ship adherence with those speed advisories using Automatic Identification System data. Daily average speed of cargo and tanker ships and the average speed of individual ship transits before, during, and after the notices were statistically analyzed for changes related to the notices. Whereas a small number of individual ships (1%) traveled significantly slower during the requested periods, speeds were not at or below the recommended 10 knots, nor were daily average speeds reduced during the notices. Voluntary conservation measures are established in a variety of contexts, and may be preferable to regulatory action; in this case, a request to make voluntary changes appeared largely ineffective. Reducing collision risks for whales in this area will require consideration of the various factors that likely explain the lack of adherence when developing an alternative strategy.

Keywords: Automatic Identification System; Local Notices to Mariners; baleen whales; commercial ship traffic; scale mismatch; ship-strike; voluntary conservation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Marine Mammal Commission, Bethesda,Maryland, USA 2: Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary,National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Santa Barbara,California, USA 3: San Diego Supercomputer Center,University of California, San Diego, La Jolla,California, USA 4: National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis,University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara,California, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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