[MARMAM] New Publication: Vessel Operations in the Arctic, 2015-2017

Greg Silber gregsilber2 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 23 09:32:57 PDT 2019

MARMAM Colleagues:

This is to note the availability of our recently published paper on "Vessel
Operations in the Arctic, 2015-2017".

Arctic waters are inhabited by numerous marine mammal species. Human
activities expose these species to potential impacts from introduced
underwater noise, ship strikes, oil spills, and entanglement in fishing
gear. Receding ice levels in the rapidly changing region will increase
vessel accessibility to Arctic waters compounding exposure of marine
mammals and their habitats to negative anthropogenic influences. In this
study we quantified Arctic-wide vessel activities in a three-year period
including inter-year changes in features of commercial shipping, cruise
ship, and energy extraction operations. We discuss implications for Arctic
marine ecosystems and organisms reliant on them and conservation efforts
aimed at reducing the threats. The paper is available at: at:
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2019.00573/full; and

Silber, G.K., and J.D. Adams. 2019. Vessel Operations in the Arctic,
2015–2017. Front. Mar. Sci., 18 September 2019 |


The Arctic is among the most rapidly-changing regions on Earth. Diminishing
levels of sea-ice has increased opportunities for maritime activities in
historically inaccessible areas such as the Northern Sea Route and
Northwest Passage. Degradation of Arctic marine ecosystems may accompany
expanding vessel operations through introduced underwater noise, potential
for large oil spills, among other things; and may compound stressors
already effecting biological populations due to climate change. Assessments
are needed to track changes in vessel traffic patterns and associated
environmental impacts. We analyzed Arctic-wide vessel Automatic
Identification System data 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2017 to quantify
the amount and spatial distribution of vessel operations, assess possible
changes in these operations, and establish a baseline for future
monitoring. Nearly 400,000 vessel transits were analyzed. Number of trips,
hours of operation, and amount of sea surface exposed to vessel traffic
were used to compare operations between 14 delineated waterways. Operations
were extensive and diverse: an average of 132,828 trips were made annually
by over 5,000 different vessels. Transits were made in all areas studied
and all months of the year. Maritime activities were intensive in some
areas, but ice-limited in others. Amount of sea surface exposed to vessel
traffic exceeded 70% in all but three areas. Bulk carriers, cargo ships,
passenger/cruise ships, research survey ships, and vessels supporting
oil/gas-related activities were represented. However, fishing vessels,
primarily in the Barents, Bering, and Norwegian Seas, surpassed operations
of all other vessel types and comprised about one-half of all voyages each
year. We observed no overt increasing or decreasing trends in vessel
traffic volume in our limited study period. Instead, inter-year variation
was evident. While the number of unique vessels and transits increased
year-to-year, hours of operation declined in the same period.
Abundance/distribution of fisheries resources, economic feasibility of
Arctic marine travel as weighed against inherent risks, and other factors
likely accounted for inter-year variation in regional activity levels.
Measures have been established to protect Arctic marine ecosystems but may
need strengthening to address potential ecosystem threats from existing and
growing commercial and industrial activities in the region.

Gregory Silber

Smultea Environmental Sciences

Washington Grove, MD, USA

gregsilber2 at gmail.com
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