Shifting the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS)

SBNMS Map

The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and surrounding waters showing (a) the distribution and relative density of all baleen whales in the sanctuary, (b) the location of right whale sightings and (c) the current and proposed Traffic Separation Schemes through the sanctuary. Data consist of over 350,000 sightings over a 24 year period.

Science Applied to Sanctuary Management

Management Issue:

Rerouting Commercial Vessel Traffic to Reduce the Risk of Shipstrikes to Whales

Tanker

The Stellwagen Bank NMS has been working to mitigate the risk of shipstrikes to endangered whales. The sanctuary is a critical seasonal feeding area for right, humpback, fin, and minke whales. It is also the area in which large commercial ships converge to enter the Port of Boston. Over 200 large commercial ships ply the waters of the Stellwagen Bank NMS every month. For vessels using the traffic separation scheme, rotating the scheme 12 degrees to the north may reduce risk of shipstrikes to endangered right whales by 58% and to all baleen whales by 81%.

Information Needs

  • Long-term distribution of baleen whale sightings
  • Habitat characterization
  • Whale feeding ecology
  • Characterization of large commercial vessel use of SBNMS
  • Requirements for proposal to International Maritime Organization

Scientific Approach and Actions

  • Risk analysis of shipstrike to whales using maps of whale sightings, habitats, human uses and information on whale feeding ecology

Key Partners and Information Sources

NOAA Office of Protected Resources, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA General Counsel for International Law, Right Whale Consortium, Massachusetts Port Authority, Shipping Industry

Scientific Results

 Map

·   An analysis of shipstrikes along the East Coast from 1979-2002 indicates that Massachusetts Bay including the Stellwagen Bank NMS is a hotspot for shipstrikes.

·   The sanctuary is heavily used by large cargo vessels and by whales year around.

·   A 23-year database of whale sightings reveal the existence of three areas of high whale density and that the current TSS bisects one of them.

·   For vessels using the traffic separation scheme, rotating the scheme 12 degrees to the north may reduce risk of shipstrikes to endangered right whales by 58% and to all baleen whales by 81%.

·   Vessel transit times would be increased by between 9 – 22 minutes 

Management Response

The National Marine Sanctuary Program, NOAA Office of Protected Resources, and the General Counsel for International Law have agreed to jointly propose to IMO to shift the current TSS 12 degrees to the north so that ships pass between two areas that have historically shown high densities of whales.

Information from Emergency Response Action Plan
FGBNMS Management Plan. For more information:
http://sanctuaries.nos.noaa.gov/management/mpr/welcome.html (979) 846-5942

 

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Revised January 22, 2013 by Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Web Group
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