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July 23, 2012

Sean Hastings, 805-966-7107 ext. 472

NOAA Encourages Southern California Ship Traffic to Slow Down to Reduce Collisions with Endangered Whales

A ship colliding with a whale can have disastrous results for both the whale and ship, and often the ship's passengers. NOAA has requested that large ships slow down in the Santa Barbara Channel to reduce the threat of ship strikes on endangered blue, humpback and fin whales. The U.S. Coast Guard is helping get the message out to mariners by broadcasting the following message on the marine band radio:

"Mariners are advised to keep a sharp lookout for blue, humpback, and fin whales around the Channel Islands. NOAA strongly recommends that vessels 300 gross registered tons or larger transiting the traffic separation scheme in the area between Sandy Point, Santa Rosa Island and Point Hueneme do so at speeds not in excess of 10 knots due to whales in this area."

NOAA asks mariners to report any collisions with whales or any observed injured or dead whales to NOAA at 877-SOS-WHALE (877-767-9425) or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF-FM Channel 16.

"We are asking the captains of these large vessels and the companies that own and operate them to take action to reduce the risk of a ship strike with endangered whales," said Christina Fahy with NOAA Fisheries southwest region protected resources division.

The whales return to the Santa Barbara Channel in the summer and fall to feed on huge swarms of krill, a shrimp-like crustacean. Too often the whales are feeding in established shipping lanes and subject to being struck by the large ships entering and departing the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. NOAA will be monitoring ship speeds to gauge the industry's cooperation with the voluntary slow speed recommendation.

"Working together with the shipping industry we can protect endangered whales and minimize disruption to maritime commerce," said Chris Mobley, superintendent of NOAA's Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

All whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and blue, fin, and humpback whales are also listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). NOAA's Fisheries has regulatory responsibility for implementing the MMPA and ESA. Whales in a national marine sanctuary are further protected under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

Additional information can be found on Channel Island's site and here.

The mission of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries is to serve as the trustee for the nation's system of 14 marine protected areas, to conserve, protect and enhance their biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy. Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1980 to protect marine resources surrounding San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands. The sanctuary spans approximately 1,470 square miles, extending from island shorelines to six miles offshore, and encompasses a rich diversity of marine life, habitats and historical and cultural resources. For more information, visit

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On the Web:
Office of the National Marine Sanctuaries - Reducing Ship Strike Threat to Whales
U.S. Coast Guard District 11 Notice to Mariners

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