Results Released from 2018 Program to Protect Whales in the Channel

Results Released from 2018 Program to Protect Whales in the Channel title=
Results Released from 2018 Program to Protect Whales in the Channel
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Source: Air Pollution Control District

The partners in an initiative to cut air pollution and protect endangered whales announced results from the 2018 program and recognized the 12 shipping companies that participated, reducing speeds to 10 knots or less in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Santa Barbara Channel region. The voluntary incentive program ran July 1 - November 15, 2018. Partners recognized the companies at a ceremony at the Bannings Landing Community Center near the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach.

Shipping companies received financial awards based on the percent of distance traveled by their vessels through the Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) zones at 10 knots or less and with an average speed of 12 knots or less. The 10-knot target follows the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ requests for vessels (300 gross tons or larger) to slow down during the months of peak whale abundance to protect whales from lethal ship strikes. This time of year also coincides with the typical high ground-level ozone (smog) season. The 10-knot target allows ships to travel at an efficient operating load that reduces air pollution and fuel costs.

The program is a collaborative effort by the following agencies and organizations:

  • Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District
  • Ventura County Air Pollution Control District
  • Bay Area Air Quality Management District
  • Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
  • Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
  • Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • The Volgenau Foundation
  • California Marine Sanctuary Foundation
  • National Marine Sanctuary Foundation
  • Environmental Defense Center

The following shipping companies participated:

  • MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company)
  • NYK (Nippon Yusen Kaisha), Ro-Ro Division
  • Evergreen
  • ONE (Ocean Network Express)
  • Hapag-Lloyd
  • Hyundai Glovis
  • K Line
  • Maersk
  • GALI (Great American Lines, Inc.)
  • Yang Ming
Left to right: Dan Howard (NOAA CBNMS), Molly Pearson (SBCAPCD), Lisa Volgenau (Volgenau Foundation), Dennis Long (CMSF), Mike Villegas (VCAPCD), Valerian Riviere (MSC), Jack Duesler (NYK), David Pollock (VCAPCD), David Cumberbatch (Maersk), Stanley Kwiaton (MSC), Michael Murphy (BAAQMD), Chris Mobley (NOAA CINMS), Pan Saurastri (ONE), Byong Keun Kim (Hyundai Glovis), James Chiu (Yang Ming), Michael Suh (Hyundai Glovis), CT Chen (Evergreen), Cary Asuncion (Cosco).

Compliance with the program was verified through Automatic Identification System (AIS) data from transponders on each ship that continuously transmit a ship’s speed, heading, and location. Of the nearly 130,000 nautical miles of ocean transited by all the ships in the program, 46,026 nautical miles were at 10 knots or less.

Shipping companies received financial awards at different tiers based on the percent of distance that the vessels in their fleet travelled at a speed of 10 knots or less. The four award tiers were Bronze (i.e., 10%-25% of their distance traveled at 10 knots or less), Silver (25-50%), Gold (50-75%), and Sapphire (75-100%). Below is the recognition earned by each participating shipping company: 

  • Sapphire: Mediterranean Shipping Company (both regions; GALI (Bay Area)
  • Gold: K-Line (both regions); NYK Ro-Ro (both regions); Hyundai Glovis (both regions); COSCO (Santa Barbara region); Evergreen (Bay Area); Hapag-Lloyd (Bay Area)
  • Silver: Maersk (both regions); CMA-CGM (Bay Area); COSCO (Bay Area); ONE (Bay Area); Yang Ming (Bay Area); Evergreen (Santa Barbara region); Hapag-Lloyd (Santa Barbara region); GALI (Santa Barbara region)
  • Bronze: CMA-CGM (Santa Barbara region); ONE (Santa Barbara region)

The Mediterranean Shipping Company notably achieved Sapphire level in both regions.

Ocean-going vessels transiting the California coast generate emissions in the form of nitrogen oxides (NOx, a precursor to smog), sulfur oxides (SOx), particle pollution, and greenhouse gases. These vessels account for more than 200 tons of NOx per day emitted off the coast of California. Many of the areas affected by these emissions do not meet the state and/or federal air quality standards for ozone. Ship strikes are also a major threat to endangered blue, humpback, and fin whales. Slower ships create less air pollution and ocean noise, and are less likely to fatally strike whales.

“The National Marine Sanctuaries Act specifically guides us to: 'create models of, and incentives for, ways to conserve and manage these areas, including the application of innovative management techniques," said Chris Mobley, Superintendent of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. “Developing this incentive-based vessel speed reduction program in collaboration with county air management districts, the shipping industry, other agencies, and NGOs in order to reduce ship strike risk and improve air quality is a wonderful example of what marine sanctuaries can do to enhance ocean and human health while promoting a sustainable, blue economy." 

The VSR incentive program has expanded in scope each year, including 2018, which marked the fourth year. Highlights of the 2018 program include: 

  • The 2018 program provided financial incentives based on the cooperation of an entire company's fleet, whereas in previous years only specific transits were enrolled in the program;
  • Ships in the program transiting the Santa Barbara Channel VSR zone traveled approximately 100,000 total nautical miles in both 2018 and 2017. In 2017, 21% of those miles were traveled at 10 knots or less; in 2018, 32% of those miles were traveled at 10 knots or less.
  • In the San Francisco VSR zone, 2018 compliance was consistent with 2017 compliance, with 50% of the total nautical miles traveled at 10 knots or less in both years;
  • Incentives ranged from $4,000 to $75,000 per company.

Mike Villegas, Air Pollution Control Officer of the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District said, “We are grateful for the Supplemental Environmental Project award from the California Air Resources Board that provided funds to expand the scope of the VSR program and provide stable funding for two years. Reducing nitrogen oxides emissions from shipping in the Channel is crucial for Ventura County to meet the 2008 federal air quality standard for ozone by our statutory deadline of 2021. The continued implementation of the voluntary vessel speed reduction incentive program is a high priority for our agency.”

“Through cooperation and modest incentives, we can achieve the dual goals of protecting both the whales and our air quality,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Bay Area Air District. “This multi-agency effort highlights the positive changes we can make when we come together to reach mutually beneficial solutions.”

“It is inspiring to see how this program continues to grow each year,” said Aeron Arlin Genet, Director of Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District. “We applaud the shipping companies for taking this voluntary step to help protect whales and reduce air pollution off of our coast.” 

Funding is in place for a similar program in 2019.

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sea dog Mar 16, 2019 10:41 AM
Results Released from 2018 Program to Protect Whales in the Channel

Blue whales are not in Channel islands all the time. They follow water conditions and water temp that have their food in it. If the whales want to be in the tanker lanes it would be hard to miss one, as 100 or more will show up together. I ran a com. fishing boat out of S.B. for almost 30 years and have never had a whale try to get out of my way no matter how fast or slow I was going. I did have several Blue whales use my boat as a back scratcher at 3am while drifting 60 miles off Cambria while fishing albacore. I would say a freighter could hit a Blue whale just about anywhere.

sea dog Mar 16, 2019 10:49 AM
Results Released from 2018 Program to Protect Whales in the Channel

I had the bad luck to be diving on a abandoned oil rig by Gaviota when an oil survey boat cam by blowing it's air cannon. My chest was smashed flat each time it went off. It blew 5 times before I could get out of the water. I was bleeding out of every hole in my head. It was the only time blood ever came out of my eyes. There was lots of whales very close to the oil rig and a couple even swam by me underwater. I can't imagine what the air cannon did to the whales - I could not work for a week !

cmetzenberg Mar 16, 2019 07:44 AM
Results Released from 2018 Program to Protect Whales in the Channel

To all, I regrettably must challenge the assertion that these speed reductions are any great help to our whale population. Though I sympathize with the public desire to help these animals I feel the public is being misled, though I’m not implying it is intentional. I do not dispute that these speed reductions reduce emissions, but I do dispute that they allow whales to get out of the way of ships. I’m yet to find any research showing that whales have an instinct to move, on the contrary, I’ve been finding they don’t know the danger of ships. The assertion that then slowing a vessel down reduces the lethality becomes a matter of physics. Does a 50,000 ton vessel traveling at 10 knots impacting a whale result in a lethal blow to that whale? I’m yet to find a marine biologist that will tell me the whale will swim that off.

Bird Mar 15, 2019 10:41 AM
Results Released from 2018 Program to Protect Whales in the Channel

That's exactly what I was thinking, YETI, as I scrolled, skimming to the bottom, assuming, hoping to see the results of this program especially in numbers of whales struck but also in comparative air quality numbers on specified days. Could it be that they did not do these analyses?

Yeti Mar 15, 2019 01:11 PM
Results Released from 2018 Program to Protect Whales in the Channel

You may be right Bird, but when I look at the list of 8 environmental and wildlife related organizations on this list, I can only assume that there are many eyes watching this for effectiveness. One year may not build a trend, but it is always interesting to see the facts, not just the feelings of everyone involved.

Yeti Mar 15, 2019 10:25 AM
Results Released from 2018 Program to Protect Whales in the Channel

This is a great effort by all to save the whales and our air.. I love it The Big Surprise is that there is NO Mention of the success of the program, beyond cooperation and compliance by all. It would be interesting if they could provide information about the average number of whale strikes in previous years compared to 2018 and 2019 thus far. This is really what we are all interested in hearing. Help us understand if this program is actually working and making a difference.

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