Shipping Lanes

map showing shipping lanes precoautionary area in the Greater Farallones national marine sanctuary

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Shipping Lanes Were Adjusted June 1, 2013 to Promote Safety of Navigation and Protect Endangered Whales Along California Coast

Busy shipping lanes off the California coast, including routes that cross four national marine sanctuaries, have been adjusted to balance the safe and efficient flow of commerce within and between our nation's ports, with NOAA's goal of reducing whale strikes from vessels.

Slow-moving whales are highly vulnerable to ship strikes, since many of their feeding and migration areas overlap with shipping lanes. Most recently, during the spring and summer of 2013, there were five whales stranded in the Monterey Bay, Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank Sanctuary regions. At least one of these five was a confirmed vessel strike.

The San Francisco Traffic Separation Scheme is located within the Cordell Bank, Greater Farallones and monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries, as well as, prime commercial fishing grounds. The extension and narrowing of the three lanes in the approach to San Francisco Bay is expected to reduce co-occurrence of ships and whales within these national marine sanctuaries. According to the International Maritime Organization decision, the lane extensions will also improve maritime safety in the area by keeping vessels on a dedicated route through prime fishing grounds, which will reduce interaction between fishing vessels and commercial ships.

The Coast Guard maintains a Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) in the port of San Francisco and the San Francisco Traffic Separation Scheme is located entirely within the VTS coverage area.  

For more information please contact, Leslie Abramson, Resource Protection Specialist.