SANTA BARBARA — Shipping lanes in the Santa Barbara Channel are set to move to help prevent the large ships from hitting whales off the coast. In 2007, four blue whales were killed by ship strikes around the Santa Barbara Channel. “Every whale in a small population counts, every whale lost makes a big difference,” said Sean Hastings, NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard came up with a proposal to move the shipping lanes away from blue, humpback and fin whale feeding grounds. “And the whales generally feed anywhere from the mid point of Santa Cruz Island and north west off of Santa Rosa Island in this region,” explained Hastings, pointing to a map of the islands and routes. That region includes the southbound traffic lane the ships pass through. Now, that lane will be adjusted and moved out of the krill-rich feeding area. The International Maritime Organization, which governs shipping worldwide, adopted the proposal. Currently, the two lanes including the separation zone, spans four miles across. With the adjustment, the space in between the lanes will be narrowed from two to one mile. The south lane will also move away from the islands, hopefully limiting ship strikes. “And when they’re hit by a ship, if they’re not killed, they’re usually wounded and so we’re trying to separate whales and ships,” said Hastings. The lane changes will take effect June 2013 and will not change the distance of the ship routes as they travel along the California coast.
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