Seasonal voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction Request Goes Into Effect May 1st, 2020 to Help Protect Endangered Whales

April, 2020 (updated November, 2020)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with support from the United States Coast Guard (USCG), issue seasonal voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) requests that go into effect May 1 off of San Francisco, and May 15 off of southern California.

The goal of these seasonal voluntary speed reduction zones is to reduce the risk of fatal ship strikes to endangered blue, fin, and humpback whales within and near Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank, Monterey Bay, and Channel Islands national marine sanctuaries. These species are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1538 et seq.), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.), and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.). Any unauthorized take of whales, even if unintentional, by vessels transiting in U.S. waters violates federal statutes.

NOAA and the USCG request that all vessels 300 gross registered tons (GRT) or larger reduce speeds to 10 knots when transiting within the designated VSR zones. NOAA analyzes all transits by vessels 300 GRT or larger via Automated Information System (AIS) data provided by the USCG to assess the industry's cooperation.

NOAA and the USCG are committed to the long-term protection of nationally significant marine resources by enhancing marine safety and environmental awareness in the maritime community. The Seasonal Voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction Request ended as planned on November 15th, 2020. Follow up letters will be sent in February to all companies that transited through the VSR zone in 2020.

We encourage vessel crews to report whale sightings through the Whale Alert App.

To read the full letter from NOAA and the USGS click here