Research and Monitoring
The West Coast sanctuaries acknowledge that there is still much to learn about the ship strike issue. For example, how does whale prey vary seasonally? When is there a heightened risk of ship strike in sanctuary waters? How do whales respond to ships transiting at different speeds? Sanctuaries will collaborate with NMFS and other partners to address some of these questions and better inform policy and management decisions.
|Scripps researcher Erin Oleson deploys a tag on a blue whale in the Santa Barbara Channel with Cascadia Research Collective. (Photo: A. Calambokidis/Cascadia Research)|
- Olympic Coast sanctuary staff monitor voluntary compliance of vessels with the "Area To Be Avoided" (ATBA) by conducting monthly processing of radar data from the jointly operated Canada/U.S. Cooperative Vessel Traffic Service and the Marine Exchange of Puget Sound Automated Identification System (AIS) data. Staff analyze vessel traffic patterns and tracks, and identify the type and status of vessels that travel within the sanctuary and the ATBA.
- Cordell Bank sanctuary staff worked with Stellwagen Bank sanctuary and the Coast Guard to record real time AIS data, and processed archived data to understand lane use and other variables by class of vessels both within and outside the lanes.
- Cordell Bank sanctuary is collaborating with a variety of partners, including NMFS, on a Central California sanctuaries ship strike risk analysis. The risk analysis will build on the risk assessment of shipping activities and habitat use by large cetaceans within Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries.
- Monterey Bay sanctuary staff worked with the Naval Postgraduate School to complete a report on the monthly distribution of shipping vessels within the Monterey Bay sanctuary.
|Cordell Bank sanctuary staff work with PRBO Conservation Science to conduct a mid-water trawl during an ACCESS research cruise. (Photo: A. Dransfield/NOAA)|
- Monterey Bay sanctuary staff completed a draft map of the distribution of whales from Cascadia Research Collective and PRBO Conservation Science; GIS layers and krill data will be added to this map.
- Channel Islands sanctuary staff and NMFS SWR co-hosted a group of graduate students from the University of California, Santa Barbara, to conduct their group thesis on the effects of three strategies to reduce the risk of ship strikes: 1) speed reduction, 2) shifting the shipping lanes south of the islands, and 3) narrowing the existing shipping lanes. This report is available under "Reports and Documents".
- Channel Islands sanctuary's research coordinator and partners authored a paper entitled "Voluntary Conservation Strategies for Large Vessels and Blue Whales: Does Free Monitoring Result in Improved Compliance?". The authors evaluate ship speeds using AIS data in the Santa Barbara Channel before, during, and after NOAA's recommended slow-speed advisory (paper in review).
- Channel Islands sanctuary has provided R/V Shearwater support to Cascadia Research Collective since 2009 to conduct tagging and photo identification of blue, fin, and humpback whales.
- Channel Islands sanctuary staff plot geographic data on whale strandings along the California coast to create a spatial representation of large whale strandings. The data is collected by members of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and provided by the NMFS Stranding Network Coordinator.
- Channel Islands sanctuary staff have developed and maintained a complete data acquisition system from AIS stations on the mainland and at Santa Cruz Island. This system allows staff to collect, process, and analyze AIS data from ships transiting within and outside the Santa Barbara Channel Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS), resulting in valuable spatial analysis products used for management.
- Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones sanctuaries staff collect data on physical conditions, prey availability, and whale distribution and abundance in quarterly surveys off the central California coast during the Applied California Current Ecosystem Monitoring (ACCESS) cruises.
- Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank, and Monterey Bay sanctuaries collaborate with the Coast Guard to conduct enforcement overflights of the sanctuaries.
- Channel Islands sanctuary volunteer Naturalist Corps and Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary staff work closely with the whale watching industry and other partners to track the presence of whales in the sanctuaries, particularly in the shipping lanes.
- Channel Islands sanctuary has partnered with the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy to perform overflights to monitor whale presence in the Santa Barbara Channel and south of the Channel Islands.
|Sanctuary staff conduct overflights with USCG to monitor whale presence in the sanctuaries. (Photos: Plane: J. E. Sequeira; Helicopter: J. Phillips)|