The development of ships' routeing measures in the Bering Strait: Lessons learned from the North Atlantic right whale to protect local whale populations
As a precautionary measure to protect the culturally-significant bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) from vessel strike, this paper explores the potential for having the International Maritime Organization endorse ships׳ routeing measures in the Bering Strait region. The confined nature of the Bering Strait forces both vessel traffic and the migrating Bering–Chukchi–Beaufort stock of bowhead whales to occupy the same narrow space, thus putting individual animals at risk of vessel strike. The potential for vessel strike may become exacerbated as the reduction of Arctic sea ice makes the Arctic increasingly accessible, allowing vessels to transit through the Strait in greater densities. In drawing from lessons learned in the successful reduction of vessel strike to the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), the author provides broad recommendations for implementing ships׳ routeing measures in the Bering Strait region based on findings by Citta et al. (2012). It is recommended that both the western side of Big Diomede Island and the western side of St. Lawrence Island be designated as seasonal Areas To Be Avoided (ATBA) during fall months when bowheads are known to inhabit the area. Alternatively, it is proposed that Traffic Separation Schemes (TSSs) be implemented so that vessels must keep to the eastern side of both Big Diomede Island and St. Lawrence Island during this time. Both measures would reduce the amount of overlap between migrating bowhead whales and transiting vessel traffic, effectively reducing the potential for vessel strike.