Goal: Reduce the Risk of Fatal Ship Strikes on Endangered Whales
Voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with support from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) annually issues voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) requests that go into effect May 1 off of San Francisco and May 15 off of Southern California. The goal of these seasonal voluntary VSR zones is to reduce the risk of fatal ship strikes to endangered blue, fin, and humpback whales within and near Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank, Monterey Bay, and Channel Islands national marine sanctuaries. These species are protected under the Federal 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.). Any unauthorized take of whales, even if unintentional, by vessels transiting in U.S. waters violates federal statutes.
NOAA and the USCG request that all vessels 300 gross registered tons (GRT) or larger reduce speeds to 10-knots when transiting within the designated VSR zones. We request your cooperation with the voluntary VSR zones to protect whales that annually migrate to these areas in summer and fall to feed. NOAA analyzes all transits by vessels 300 GRT or larger via Automated Information System (AIS) data provided by USCG to assess the industry's cooperation.
We encourage vessel crews to report whale sightings through the Whale Alert App.
Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies Incentive-Based Vessel Speed Reduction Program
The Vessel Speed Reduction incentive program Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies is a collaboration of government agencies, non-profit organizations, and shipping industry stakeholders working together to reduce air pollution, ocean noise and shipstrikes on endangered whales in Southern California and in the San Francisco Bay region. Sanctuary staff and partners request that container and car carrier companies slow down their vessels to a speed of 10 knots or less from May 15 to November 15. Shipping companies that cooperate at a high level are acknowledged with financial and public relation incentives.
Please visit the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District's Marine Shipping Initiative's website for full program details and results.
Please also visit the Benioff Ocean Institute's Whale Safe web platform, a mapping and analysis tool displaying near real-time whale and ship data for the Santa Barbara Channel.