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Boat Strikes
San Francisco Chronicle, June 6, 2011

Calif. enviros want ships to slow to save whales
By The Associated Press

Los Angeles, CA --Environmentalists want ships traveling through California's marine sanctuaries to slow down to avoid deadly collisions with whales.

Four groups filed a petition Monday asking the federal government to establish a 10-knot speed limit for large commercial vessels traveling though the state's four National Marine Sanctuaries in the Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank, The Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The Environmental Defense Center, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Pacific Environment said a speed limit would help protect endangered blue, humpback and fin whales from being run over.

"The overlap of these shipping lanes with California's national marine sanctuaries puts sanctuary wildlife at great risk," they wrote in the petition. "While we cannot likely change the behavior of whales and other species so as to avoid ship strikes, we can and must regulate vessel practices to minimize this risk."

Shipping groups say a speed limit would greatly delay cargo from reaching port and more than double the time it takes the fastest vessels to travel through the sanctuaries.

They suggest that changing shipping routes to send vessels around the sanctuaries would be a better alternative.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees National Marine Sanctuaries, said it would review the petition.

NOAA designated shipping lanes near the near the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary as a "Whale Advisory Zone" after four blue whales were struck and killed by vessels in 2007.

Now the agency conducts aerial surveys of the Santa Barbara Channel during the whale migration from May to December and broadcasts seasonal advisories to limit travel speeds to 10 knots to avoid hitting whales.

Ship captains ignore the advisories because they are voluntary, environmentalists said.

© 2011 Hearst Communications Inc.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton