Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 2:05 pm | Overcast 62º

 
 
 
 

Karen Telleen-Lawton: ‘Slow Down Santa Barbara’ for Whales and Cleaner Air

I appreciate the little road signs that read, “Slow Down Santa Barbara.” They’re a good reminder that we aspire to live not in a frenetic big city but an ever-so-slightly quaint smallish one. Slowing down drivers is for safety, but side benefits are reduced stress levels and an improved quality of life.

The same arguments apply offshore, to ships in the Santa Barbara Channel making their way to the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors. The Southern California Bight, that huge triangle of ocean south of Point Conception and west of San Diego, is home or feasting grounds to one-third of the world’s marine mammal species. It is also one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, with 5,000 ships annually traversing a mile-wide southbound lane, mile-wide northbound lane with a mile-wide buffer between.

The busy channel gives us access to a vast variety of global goods at low prices. But there are costs that don’t show up in the prices of those goods. Two in particular are whale-ship collisions and ozone pollution.

Now, an experimental incentive program is looking to Slow Down Santa Barbara for ships.

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the Environmental Defense Center designed and implemented the program to pay global shippers a small bonus when they cut their speed to a maximum of 12 knots. It began in July and runs through October, with six participants from across the globe: COSCO, Hapag Lloyd, K Line, Maersk Line, Matson and United Arab Shipping Co.

The goal is to address both collision and pollution issues. In Santa Barbara County, 50 percent of ozone-forming nitrogen oxides are emitted by passing ships.

“Reducing ship speeds to 12 knots or less reduces emissions of smog-forming air pollutants that harm our health,” according to Dave Van Mullem, director of the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District.

The program is modeled on a successful one in the Long Beach and L.A. harbors.

Whale strikes by ships happen every year. The summer of 2007 witnessed a record five known ship strikes of blue whales. The most recent likely victim was a fin whale that washed up the beach at Port Hueneme in the middle of August. When ships’ travel speed is reduced, whales have more time to maneuver out of the way.

The ships’ typical speeds are 14 to 18 knots. They’ll receive $2,500 every time their ship passes through the channel at a speed of 12 knots or less. Though the bonus doesn’t cover their extra costs, the initial response from the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association has been very positive. The nonprofit coalition has funding for 16 transits, but they received more than 25 ship transit requests to be included in the trial.

“The PMSA is committed to finding viable science-based solutions to both air quality and whale protection issues,” said TL Garrett, vice president of the association.

Santa Barbara Foundation community investment officer Sharyn Main agrees: "Nobody wants to hit these fabulous animals," she said.

The next time you spot one of those green and yellow Slow Down Santa Barbara signs, think health, think safety and think of our large marine mammal friends. They’re likely navigating even busier ocean traffic than whatever you’re facing on the mainland.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor (www.DecisivePath.com) and a freelance writer (www.CanyonVoices.com). Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >