Recommendations To Avoid Collisions

NOAA Fisheries has collaborated with NOAA Sanctuaries and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to effect changes in shipping lanes that should help reduce the risk of ships striking large whales.  The USCG is responsible for establishing and modifying shipping lanes under the Ports and Waterways Safety Act.  Whenever the USCG considers making changes to existing shipping lanes, it initiates a Port Assess Route Study (PARS) process to study options and to allow the public and government agencies the opportunity to provide input on options.  NOAA provided the USCG with information on the abundance and distribution of whales as part of the PARS for shipping routes in the Los Angeles/Long Beach (LA/LB) and San Francisco areas, the two major ports in California.  This information was included in the PARS and in the USCG’s recommendations which would shift shipping lanes in ways to help reduce the overlap of ships and large whales.  In 2012 the USCG took their recommendations to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).  The IMO approved the recommendations and in July 2013, the lanes changed.  

NOAA Fisheries has worked with the Southern California Marine Exchange to coordinate meetings with shipping industry leaders to discuss the issue of large whale ship strikes.  NOAA works with the USCG, industry representatives, and NOAA Weather Service to alert mariners of the presence of large whales, as a way to raise awareness and help prevent strikes.  NOAA staff have served on stakeholder groups established to improve understanding of and develop a plan to help reduce ship strikes.

NOAA recommends that operators of large vessels do the following to help reduce the risk of ship strikes:

  1. Learn when the seasonal abundance of large whales are in your shipping lanes; listen & be aware of advisories.
  2. Consult the LNM in your area or Coast Pilot for more information.
  3. Keep a sharp look-out for whales; including posting extra crew on the bow to watch, if possible.
  4. Reduce speeds while in the advisory zones, or in areas of high seasonal or local whale abundance.
  5. If practicable, re-route vessel to avoid areas of high whale abundance.

To report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal, please call: 1-866-767-6114 
For law enforcement, harassments,  and other violations, please call:  1-800-853-1964

For entangled marine mammals, please call: 1-877-SOS-WHALe or 1-877-767-9425
or hail the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16
To report derelict gear, please call:  1-855-542-3935