[MARMAM] Ship strike risk reduction measure adopted by Antarctic expedition tourism operators

Ted Cheeseman teo at cheesemans.com
Tue May 14 09:04:18 PDT 2019

Dear Marmam community,

We are very pleased to share news of a recent step taken by Antarctic expedition tour operators to proactively manage risk to whales from ship operations on the Antarctic Peninsula. The following short working paper is being tabled at IWC presently:

Ship Strike Risk Mitigation by Antarctic Expedition Tourism Vessels

Ted Cheeseman(1),(2), Amanda Lynnes(2) and Lisa Kelley(2)
1Happywhale (www.happywhale.com) and Southern Cross University, New South Wales, Australia
2International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, 50 South Commons Way, Unit E-5B, South Kingstown, RI, 02879, USA

The Antarctic Peninsula region is an area of significant and growing human activity, including science, fishing and tourism. While no cetacean population along the Antarctic Peninsula has been comprehensively assessed, anecdotal evidence and extremely high pregnancy rates (Pallin et al., 2018) leave little question that humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) populations are enjoying rapid growth rates as well. Recognizing that increased shipping has the potential to lead to an increase in whale strikes, especially in the whale rich waters of the Gerlache Strait, members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) voted at their recent annual meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, to adopt mandatory measures to mitigate ship strike risk from ship operations. IAATO members operate under a mandate to keep the impact of tourism “less than minor or transitory”, an ethos that motivated IAATO efforts to find ship strike risk reduction solutions, without having comprehensive data for whale distributions exist to support spatial planning in the manner of van der Hoop et al. (2012), for example.

IAATO member operators represent the large majority of all tour operators operating in Antarctica, including all commercial SOLAS passenger ship operators. The association has reported nine ship strikes to IWC since 2001.

In May 2019, IAATO members voted unanimously to adopt the following measure:

For the 2019-20 season, IAATO Operators are instructed to commit to one of the following:

1. A 10kn speed restriction within the Geofenced time-area proposed.
*This excludes emergency or other extenuating circumstances.

OR for IAATO Operators who have a whale strike mitigation training program:

2. An extra watchman on the bridge for the sole purpose of being on whale lookout within the Geofenced time-area proposed. Appropriate records of this action must be recorded in the ship’s log.

This is a mandatory measure; all IAATO Operators will participate by taking one of these two actions during the 2019-20 season.

The geofenced time/area is as follows:

	• January 1 through May 30 in the Gerlache Strait and adjacent waters, in the area between 63.65S and 65.35S, including Dallmann Bay west to 64.2W
	• February 1 through May 30 in the Marta Passage entering Crystal Sound, 67.8W to 67.0W 

Further, the IAATO secretariat has been tasked with studying the implications of this proposal, including what observer-based whale strike mitigation training programs exist within IAATO member bridge teams, and their expected efficacy, as well as information gaps that limit a more refined and evidence-based whale strike risk mitigation system.

- Pallin, L. J., Baker, C. S., Steel, D., Kellar, N. M., Robbins, J., Johnston, D. W., … Friedlaender, A. S. (2018). High pregnancy rates in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) around the western antarctic peninsula, evidence of a rapidly growing population. Royal Society Open Science, 5(5), 180017. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.180017
- van der Hoop, J. M., Vanderlaan, A. S. M., & Taggart, C. T. (2012). Absolute probability estimates of lethal vessel strikes to North Atlantic right whales in Roseway Basin, Scotian Shelf. Ecological Applications, 22(7), 2021–2033. https://doi.org/10.1890/11-1841.1

Ted Cheeseman
ted at happywhale.com

** know your whales :) **

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