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Whale-ship strikes are of growing worldwide concern due to the steady growth of commercial shipping. Improving the current situation involves the creation of a communication capability allowing whale position information to be estimated and exchanged among vessels and other observation assets. An early example of such a system has been implemented for the shipping lane approaches to the harbor of Boston, Massachusetts where ship traffic transits areas of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary frequently used by whales. It uses the Automated Identification Systems (AIS) technology, currently required for larger vessels but becoming more common in all classes of vessels. However, we believe the default mode of AIS operation will be inadequate to meet the long-term needs of whale-ship collision avoidance, and will likewise fall short of meeting other current and future marine safety and security communication needs. This paper explores the emerging safety and security needs for vessel communications, and considers the consequences of a communication framework supporting asynchronous messaging that can be used to enhance the basic AIS capability. The options we analyze can be pursued within the AIS standardization process, or independently developed with attention to compatibility with existing AIS systems. Examples are discussed for minimizing ship interactions with Humpback Whales and endangered North Atlantic Right Whales on the east coast, and North Pacific Right Whales, Bowhead Whales, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales and Beluga Whales in west coast, Alaskan and Hawaiian waters.
Date of Conference: 26-29 Oct. 2009