Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 12:59 am | Mostly Cloudy 65º


Captain’s Log: NOAA Sanctuaries Advance Plan for Reducing Ship Strikes on Whales

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council (on which your faithful captain serves) has made it abundantly clear to sanctuaries management that our constituents (all of you reading this) want to focus great energy on preventing ship strikes on whales.

For years we have asked commercial ships — which transit the Santa Barbara Channel and adjacent waters south of our islands — to slow down to reduce the chances of striking, injuring or killing whales. Some ships have indeed slowed down, and I’m proud of the skippers of those vessels. For the most part, skippers ignore the pleas and cruise through our waters at a speed that endangers whales.

Sanctuary staff is working smart on this problem. On Feb. 27, Sean Hastings, the CINMS resource protection coordinator, and Andrea Dransfield, CINMS California sea grant fellow, attended a Climate Action Hearing in Los Angeles. The purpose of the hearing was to allow public input on the investment of cap-and-trade auction proceeds to support the state’s effort to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, as per the Cap-and Trade Auction Proceeds Investment Plan.

Along with partners including the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District and the Environmental Defense Center, they put forth a proposal to provide incentives for the voluntarily reduction of ship speeds in the Santa Barbara Channel, thereby reducing emissions and protecting whales. In other words, pay good money for ships to slow down to a speed (roughly 10 knots or 11.1 mph).

Hastings and Dransfield also attended a North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA) intelligence seminar, “Harmonizing California’s Environmental Regulations,” in Long Beach.

The purpose of the NAMEPA seminar series is to bring together stakeholders in the marine community to discuss concerns and actions that address marine environmental protection. The goal of these discussions is to create greater awareness of the issues and the work that is being done to mitigate potential problems, and to foster collaboration among stakeholders.

Hastings participated in a senior leadership roundtable session that allowed invited stakeholders to air concerns about current regulations, and provided regulators an opportunity to rationalize the relevance of regulations to state and global trade. This also provided an opportunity for Hastings to highlight ongoing NOAA requests for ships to voluntarily reduce speeds in the Santa Barbara Channel to reduce risks to endangered whales, an effort that has not been effective.

Hastings also described a new proposal that could, through use of California’s Cap-and-Trade Auction Proceeds Investment Plan, create an incentive program to encourage ship speed reductions to help protect endangered whales and lower greenhouse gas emissions. This opened dialogue on the proposal with multiple stakeholder groups, including the shipping industry, and facilitated discussions about program feasibility and stakeholder views.

Participation at the NAMEPA seminar provided an important opportunity to bring heightened awareness of the ship strike issue to the attention of multiple stakeholders, especially the shipping industry as well as U.S. Coast Guard leadership, and to engage industry in discussions about collaborative approaches to using incentives to reduce ship speeds.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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