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  June 25th, 2018 | Written by

Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies

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  • The 2018 vessel speed reduction program in the Santa Barbara Channel and San Francisco Bay has begun.
  • Program is enrolling shipping companies for incentives to reduce speeds in California shipping lanes.
  • NOAA requests vessels slow to 10 knots or less during months of peak whale abundance.

The partners in an initiative to cut air pollution and protect whales today announced the launch of the 2018 incentive program, which will start July 1 and end November 15, 2018, with voluntary vessel speed reduction (VSR) zones in the Santa Barbara Channel region and San Francisco Bay area.

For the 2018 program, financial incentives will be awarded to shipping companies based on the percent of distance traveled by their vessels through the VSR zones at 10 knots or less and with an average speed that does not exceed 12 knots. The 10 knot target was selected by the partnership for consistency. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sanctuaries request vessels 300 gross tons or larger to slow to 10 knots or less during the months of peak whale abundance to protect whales from lethal ship strikes.

Shipping companies will receive financial awards at different tiers based on their fleet’s adherence to the program criteria. The four award tiers will be bronze, silver, gold and sapphire. Close to $300,000 is available for the 2018 program. Awards will range from $1,000 to $35,000 (or greater in special circumstances) per company.

Ventura County Air Pollution Control District (VCAPCD) is providing $175,000 for the 2018 Program from a Supplemental Environmental Project settlement secured through the California Air Resources Board. Mike Villegas, Air Pollution Control Officer at VCAPCD, said, “We are so pleased to receive this settlement funding, which ensures $175,000 for 2018, and another $175,000 towards a 2019 program. Reducing vessel speeds greatly reduces emissions of smog-forming pollutants, and will help our district attain state and federal air quality standards for ozone.”

The balance of funding for the 2018 Program is from the other air districts participating, and the Volgenau Foundation.

“The expansion of the Vessel Speed Reduction program and harmonizing it with our seasonal whale advisory zone enhances our conservation efforts for blue, humpback and fin whales feeding in West Coast national marine sanctuaries,” said Chris Mobley, superintendent of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

“With the expansion of the program to the Bay Area last year, the Air District was impressed by the response from the shipping companies committing to improve air quality and protect whales,” said Jack Broadbent, Executive Officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. “By continuing these efforts to reduce the speeds of shipping vessels this summer, our region can benefit from improvements in air quality and to the marine environment.”

To participate in the program, companies are asked to submit no later than July 10, 2018 the list of vessels that will be transiting the VSR regions between July 1 and November 15, 2018. Additional information, including maps, materials and signup forms, is available here.