Reducing ship speeds protects whales from fatal ship strikes and reduces air pollution.
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) is being recognized with the EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award along with its partners Santa Barbara and Ventura County Air Pollution Control Districts, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and the Environmental Defense Center for the Vessel Speed Reduction program “Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies.” The program encourages major shipping companies transiting through the Santa Barbara Channel and sanctuary to reduce ship speeds to 12 knots or lower with incentive payments. Reducing ship speeds greatly reduces air pollution and significantly lowers the risk of fatal ship strikes on whales.
Launched as a trial program in 2014, seven major global shipping companies participated: COSCO, Hapag-Lloyd, K-Line, Maersk Line, Matson, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and United Arab Shipping Company. NMSF served as a fiscal agent for the program, receiving funds from partners and making the incentive payments to shipping companies. 27 cargo ships were reduced to speeds of 12 knots or less cutting more than 12 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides pollution and more than 500 metric tons of greenhouse gases as well as preventing fatal ship strikes on whales.
Plans for continuing the program are already in motion. The 2016 program has already launched and is anticipating even more shipping companies will get involved. Expansions in the 2016 program include an additional VSR zone that has been identified south of the Channel Islands that will protect fin whales and a sliding scale of incentives to target the fastest ships.
NMSF will provide an additional $100,000 to support the expansion in awarded settlement funds designated to marine resource preservation within the Central District of California. The project will also leverage the support of the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District (APCD) who have committed $50,000; Ventura Air Pollution Control District who have $50,000 committed and the Volgenau Family Foundation who have awarded $15,000.
Through continued work with partners, NMSF provides critical support for conservation and preservation projects within sanctuary waters. For more information about the program, visit: https://channelislands.noaa.gov/management/resource/ship_strikes.html