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IMO adopts new protections for endangered whales along the California coast

IMO adopts new protections for endangered whales along the California coast
Kim Biggar January 6, 2023

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted a US proposal to increase protections for endangered blue, fin and humpback whales off the California coast. The change will take effect this summer, expanding areas that vessels should avoid to give whales more space and extending vessel traffic lanes west of, in and around the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council’s Marine Shipping Working Group originally recommended the modifications in 2015. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) partnered with the US Coast Guard to submit the proposal to the IMO in 2022.

The US-recommended adjustments will enhance navigation safety and protect whales from ship strikes in an area containing some of the highest densities of commercial maritime traffic in the world.
A 13-nautical-mile extension of vessel traffic lanes, known as the “traffic separation scheme,” will result in vessels lining up for port entry farther west and away from the continental shelf, in deeper waters where there are lower concentrations of whales. The area to be avoided by vessels is expanding by more than 2,000 square nautical miles and will cover, in total, approximately 4,476 square nautical miles of important whale feeding habitat off Point Conception and Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County, California.