Los Angeles and Long Beach are home to two of the busiest ports in the world, with over 6,500
vessels arriving and departing each year. Many of these commercial ships pass through the Santa
Barbara Channel and sanctuary, which may pose a collision threat to large species of whales. In
the fall of 2007, five blue whale fatalities were confirmed in the Santa Barbara Channel, with
the cause assumed to be from commercial vessel strikes. Although this was an unusually high
number, the incident was a serious concern for the sanctuary. To address this issue, Channel
Islands National Marine Sanctuary has continuously engaged in projects that involve collaboration
with the shipping industry, governmental agencies, non-profits, and other key stakeholders with
the goal of protecting whales while ensuring vibrant maritime commerce.
Whale species and abundance varies seasonally in the Santa Barbara Channel, so mariners should
exercise caution accordingly. From November to May, approximately 19,000 gray whales migrate
along the coast both nearshore and offshore. Endangered humpback, blue, and fin whales are present
in their greatest numbers from June through November. In addition, several other species such as
sperm whales and orcas are also occasionally seen in the Channel at various times throughout the year.
2015 WHALE ADVISORY ADVISORY AND VOLUNTARY SLOW SPEED ZONE NOW IN EFFECT
Vessels transiting the area between Point Arguello and Dana Point, including the Traffic Separation
Schemes in the Santa Barbara Channel and San Pedro Channel, from May through November, should
exercise caution and reduce speed. These areas contain populations of endangered blue, humpback
and fin whales which are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1538
et seq.), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.), and the National Marine
Sanctuaries Act (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.).
Map depicting the Whale Advisory Zone and Voluntary Vessel.
Click on the map for a larger view.
Speed Reduction zone as of May 2015.
NOAA strongly recommends that vessels 300 gross registered tons or larger transiting the Santa
Barbara Channel traffic separation scheme in the area between Point Conception and San Pedro Point,
Santa Cruz Island do so at speeds not in excess of 10 knots due to endangered whales in this area.
Please 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 Channel 16.
NOAA is asking for the public's help in tracking whales. If you see whales, please record the date
and location, the number of whales, the species (if known) and a description of the animals.
Check the District
Eleven Local Notice to Mariners for the most recent whale advisory information.
Marine Shipping Working Group
The Sanctuary Advisory Council has established the Marine Shipping Working Group to bring
together stakeholders, agencies, experts and industry representatives to develop recommendations on:
1) Reducing the risk of ship strikes on endangered whales
2) Decreasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions
3) Improving navigational safety and promoting
efficient maritime shipping throughout the region
4) Reducing conflicts with other ocean users
(e.g. naval operations)
With support from partners, the Marine Shipping Working Group will meet five times in 2015. For
more information, please visit the working group meetings page.
Mobile Apps Improve Collection of Real-Time Whale Data
Two innovative mobile applications (apps), Spotter Pro and Whale Alert, empower the public to
contribute to the protection of West Coast whales. The apps can be downloaded on smartphones and
tablets, and allow users to report whale sightings in real time. Spotter Pro has been designed for
specially trained observers, and Whale Alert is for all users. Download the app and find out more
Whale Alert - West Coast.
Learn more about the sanctuary's electronic data collection programs
Contact Shauna Bingham to find out more about becoming
a trained whale observer.
Many partners assisted with app development and procurement of hardware, including: Office of
National Marine Sanctuaries, Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation, National Marine Sanctuary
Foundation, NOAA Fisheries, Point Blue Conservation Science, Conserve.IO, Pacific Merchant Shipping
Association, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and U.S. Coast Guard.
Vessel Speed Reduction Trial Program
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District,
and the Environmental Defense Center launched a trial incentive program to slow ships down in the
Santa Barbara Channel in an effort to reduce air pollution and increase protection of endangered
whales. Selected ships reduced their speed to 12 knots or less (reduced from typical speeds of
14-18 knots) as they traveled between Point Conception and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach
from July through November 2014 and received $2,500 per transit. The trial program was modeled
after similar, successful programs at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, where 90 percent of
shipping lines participate. Slowing ships down reduces the likelihood a ship strike on a whale will
be fatal and reduces fuel consumption, substantially lowering the amount of emitted air pollution.
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation managed the incentive payments with funding from the Santa
Barbara Foundation, Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, and the Ventura County Air
Pollution Control District. Payments were provided upon verification of the ships' speeds through
the Channel, using Automatic Identification System monitors that receive speed and location data
from transponders on ships as they transit.
Seven global shipping companies participated in the effort and slowed 27 transits to 12 knots or
less in the reduced speed zone, with most of the transits occurring between July and October. This
time period coincides with the busiest whale season and the prime period for high levels of ozone
air pollution. The program achieved more than 16 tons of ozone-forming nitrogen oxides emissions
reductions from the participating ships, a more than 50 percent reduction from baseline emissions;
also, the program achieved approximately 500 metric tons of regional greenhouse gas emission
reductions, a more than 50 percent reduction.
The trial demonstrated the willingness of shipping companies to participate in a voluntary,
non-regulatory, non-port program, and the feasibility of implementing such a vessel speed reduction
program in the Santa Barbara Channel. The success of the trial also provides a solid foundation
for a future larger-scale program.
For more information, refer to:
Final Results Report
Santa Barbara Channel Traffic Separation Scheme Amendment
On June 1, 2013, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) amended the Santa Barbara Channel
Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) and the approach to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The TSS amendment reduced the width of the separation zone from 2 nautical miles (nm) to 1 nm by
shifting the inbound south lane shoreward and away from known whale concentrations. The outbound
north lane remained unchanged. Narrowing the separation zone is expected to reduce co-occurrence of
ships and whales while maintaining navigational safety.
For the official USCG Local Notice to Mariners (LNM) please
For the IMO approved coordinates and graphics depicting the TSS amendments go to the enclosures section.
|NOAA chart showing the Santa Barbara Channel Traffic Separation Scheme adjustments. Click on the map for a larger view.|
NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
University of California Santa Barbara
Ocean Science Education Building 514, MC 6155
Santa Barbara, CA, 93106-6155