Strikes between vessels and cetaceans have significantly increased worldwide in the last decades. The Canary Islands archipelago is a geographical area with an important overlap of high cetacean diversity and maritime traffic, including high-speed ferries. Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), currently listed as a vulnerable species, are severely impacted by ship strikes. Nearly 60% of sperm whales’ deaths are due to ship strikes in the Canary Islands. In such cases, subcutaneous, muscular and visceral extensive hemorrhages and hematomas, indicate unequivocal antemortem trauma. However, when carcasses are highly autolyzed, it is challenging to distinguish whether the trauma occurred ante- or post-mortem. The presence of fat emboli within the lung microvasculature is used to determine a severe “in vivo” trauma in other species. We hypothesized fat emboli detection could be a feasible, reliable and accurate forensic tool to determine ante-mortem ship strikes in stranded sperm whales, even in decomposed carcasses. In this study, we evaluated the presence of fat emboli by using an osmium tetroxide (OsO4)-based histochemical technique in lung tissue of 24 sperm whales, 16 of them with evidence of ship strike, stranded and necropsied in the Canaries between 2000 and 2017. About 70% of them presented an advanced autolysis. Histological examination revealed the presence of OsO4-positive fat emboli in 13 out of the 16 sperm whales with signs of ship strike, and two out of eight of the “control” group, with varying degrees of abundance and distribution. A classification and regression tree was developed to assess the cut off of fat emboli area determining the high or low probability for diagnosing ship-strikes, with a sensitivity of 89% and a specificity of 100%. The results demonstrated: (1) the usefulness of fat detection as a diagnostic tool for “in vivo” trauma, even in decomposed tissues kept in formaldehyde for long periods of time; and (2) that, during this 18-year period, at least, 81% of the sperm whales with signs of ship strike were alive at the moment of the strike and died subsequently. This information is highly valuable in order to implement proper mitigation measures in this area.
Vessel Traffic and Tracking, Shipping, and Ports
A voluntary commercial vessel slowdown trial was conducted through 16 nm of shipping lanes overlapping critical habitat of at-risk southern resident killer whales (SRKW) in the Salish Sea. From August 7 to October 6, 2017, the trial requested piloted vessels to slow to 11 knots speed-through-water. Analysis of AIS vessel tracking data showed that 350 of 951 (37%) piloted transits achieved this target speed, 421 of 951 (44%) transits achieved speeds within one knot of this target (i.e., ≤12 knots), and 55% achieved speeds ≤ 13 knots. Slowdown results were compared to ‘Baseline’ noise of the same region, matched across lunar months. A local hydrophone listening station in Lime Kiln State Park, 2.3 km from the shipping lane, recorded 1.2 dB reductions in median broadband noise (10–100,000 Hz, rms) compared to the Baseline period, despite longer transit. The median reduction was 2.5 dB when filtering only for periods when commercial vessels were within 6 km radius of Lime Kiln. The reductions were highest in the 1st decade band (-3.1 dB, 10–100 Hz) and lowest in the 4th decade band (-0.3 dB reduction, 10–100 kHz). A regional vessel noise model predicted noise for a range of traffic volume and vessel speed scenarios for a 1133 km2 ‘Slowdown region’ containing the 16 nm of shipping lanes. A temporally and spatially explicit simulation model evaluated the changes in traffic volume and speed on SRKW in their foraging habitat within this Slowdown region. The model tracked the number and magnitude of noise-exposure events that impacted each of 78 (simulated) SRKW across different traffic scenarios. These disturbance metrics were simplified to a cumulative effect termed ‘potential lost foraging time’ that corresponded to the sum of disturbance events described by assumptions of time that whales could not forage due to noise disturbance. The model predicted that the voluntary Slowdown trial achieved 22% reduction in ‘potential lost foraging time’ for SRKW, with 40% reductions under 100% 11-knot participation. Slower vessel speeds reduced underwater noise in the Slowdown area despite longer passage times and therefore suggest this is an effective way to benefit SRKW habitat function in the vicinity of shipping lanes.
Çandarlı Bay is a marine environment at risk of heavy pollution because of industrial facilities including the only ship recycling zone of Turkey, and intense marine traffic related to the raw materials needs of a dense industrial zone. These risk factors make the development of practical environmental management strategies increasingly necessary. Oil spills from the heavy ship traffic, one of the major risks, can be detected by satellite remote sensing technologies. In this study, it is aimed to show spatial characteristics of oil spills as well as its dynamics in the time domain of the bay. Results from a three year period of the study show that as a main environmental problem, oil pollution has a relatively high percentage of spatial distribution in the bay. It is therefore concluded that regular monitoring of the intense oil pollution in the bay is required with an agile and low-cost method of satellite monitoring to intervene in good time and to minimize its impacts. The study provided an extensive understanding of spatio-temporal dynamics of oil pollution in the bay. The approach used will also provide a baseline for decision-makers to develop environmental management plans for other coastal zones with similar sensitivities.
Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) are protected in the UK by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Understanding the impact of anthropogenic pressures is fundamental for effective protection under this act and successful conservation generally. Land-based observations (n = 146) were conducted over a three-month period, during which, porpoise presence, behaviour, vessel type, and locations were recorded. A total of 2461 behavioural observations were recorded, along with a total frequency of marine vessels of 1377.
Principal Component Analysis (76.44%, p = <0.001) revealed a moderate negative correlation between component one (vessels) and two (porpoises and feeding behaviour) (−0.413), indicating that P. phocoena presence and feeding behaviour reduced in response to increasing vessel frequencies. In addition, P. phocoena were sighted more frequently during periods of rising tide at a 1% significance level, consistent with previous results obtained by other Authors.
Using measures outlined by the European Commission, the impacts recorded here make this population of porpoises eligible for possible protection under a Special Area of Conservation or for inclusion within the Torbay Marine Conservation Zone as a “priority species”.
Ballast water managements systems (BWMS) installed on vessels may use active substances to inactivate organisms. This paper provides new insights in the global issue of noxious disinfection by-products (DBP) discharge with ballast water, and the related risk assessment for human health. The GESAMP ballast water working group plays a role in the certification process of BWMS that make use of active substances evaluating potential negative effects. We analyzed all BWMS that passed GESAMP final approval over a decade until 2017 providing an overview of chemicals in the discharged ballast water generated by BWMS. We used these data to calculate the chemical load humans may be exposed to for two different commercial ports (Koper, Slovenia and Hamburg, Germany). None of the chemicals in this study reached levels of concern that would indicate a risk for humans after exposure to chemicals present in the discharged ballast water. Nevertheless, although this exposure only adds to a lesser degree to the overall exposure to disinfection by-products, some chemicals, such as tribromomethane, have carcinogenic properties. In case studies we show which chemicals have the largest contribution to the aggregated exposure of humans. We note that tribromomethane, despite its low bio-concentration factor (BCF), may accumulate in fat, when fish are continuously exposed to DBPs during low-level chlorination. Since this figure would give a higher value for the internal dose for tribromomethane from seafood consumption than the current BCF in the GISIS database, the calculated value may underestimate the contribution of tribromomethane, and possibly also other DBPs.
With the recent ratification of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004, it will soon be necessary to assess ships for compliance with ballast water discharge standards. Sampling skids that allow the efficient collection of ballast water samples in a compact space have been developed for this purpose. We ran 22 trials on board the RV Meteor from June 4–15, 2015 to evaluate the performance of three ballast water sampling devices (traditional plankton net, Triton sampling skid, SGS sampling skid) for three organism size classes: ≥ 50 μm, ≥ 10 μm to < 50 μm, and < 10 μm. Natural sea water was run through the ballast water system and untreated samples were collected using paired sampling devices. Collected samples were analyzed in parallel by multiple analysts using several different analytic methods to quantify organism concentrations. To determine whether there were differences in the number of viable organisms collected across sampling devices, results were standardized and statistically treated to filter out other sources of variability, resulting in an outcome variable representing the mean difference in measurements that can be attributed to sampling devices. These results were tested for significance using pairwise Tukey contrasts. Differences in organism concentrations were found in 50% of comparisons between sampling skids and the plankton net for ≥ 50 μm, and ≥ 10 μm to < 50 μm size classes, with net samples containing either higher or lower densities. There were no differences for < 10 μm organisms. Future work will be required to explicitly examine the potential effects of flow velocity, sampling duration, sampled volume, and organism concentrations on sampling device performance.
To prevent new ballast water-mediated introductions of aquatic nonindigenous species (NIS), many ships will soon use approved Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS) to meet discharge standards for the maximum number of viable organisms in ballast water. Type approval testing of BWMS is typically conducted during warmer seasons when plankton concentrations are highest, despite the fact that ships operate globally year-round. Low temperatures encountered in polar and cool temperate climates, particularly during the winter season, may impact treatment efficacy through changes in plankton community composition, biological metabolic rates or chemical reaction rates. Filtration + UV irradiance is one of the most common ballast water treatment methods, but its effectiveness at low temperatures has not been assessed. The objective in this study was to examine the efficacy of filtration + UV-C irradiation treatment at low temperatures for removal or inactivation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations during simulated ballast water treatment. Organisms from two size classes (≥ 10 to < 50 μm and ≥ 50 μm) were identified and enumerated using microscope and culture techniques. The response of organisms in both size categories to UV-C irradiation was evident across a range of temperatures (18 °C, 12 °C and 2 °C) as a significant decrease in concentration between controls and treated samples. Results indicate that filtration + UV-C irradiation will be effective at low temperatures, with few viable organisms ≥ 10 to < 50 μm recorded even 21 days following UV exposure (significantly lower than in the control treatment).
Ship traffic in Northwestern European seas is intense and continuing to increase, posing a threat to vulnerable seabird species as a result of disturbance. However, information on species-specific effects of ship traffic on seabirds at sea is limited, and tools are needed to prioritize species and areas to support the integration of conservation needs in Marine Spatial Planning. In this study, we investigated the responses of 26 characteristic seabird species in the German North and Baltic Seas to experimental ship disturbance using large datasets collected as part of the seabirds at Sea counts. We developed a Disturbance Vulnerability Index (DVI) for ship traffic combining indicators for species’ shyness, escape costs, and compensatory potential, and analyzed the relationships among shyness, escape costs, and vulnerability. The DVI was calculated using the following eight indicators: escape distance, proportion of escaping birds, proportion of birds swimming prior to disturbance, wing loading, habitat use flexibility, biogeographic population size, adult survival rate, European threat and conservation status. Species-specific disturbance responses differed considerably, with common scoters (Melanitta nigra) and red-throated loons (Gavia stellata) showing the longest escape distances and highest proportions of escaping individuals. Red-throated loon, black guillemot (Cepphus grylle), Arctic loon (Gavia arctica), velvet scoter (Melanitta fusca), and red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) had the highest DVI values, and gulls and terns had the lowest. Contrary to theoretical considerations, shyness correlated positively with escape costs, with the shyest species also being the most vulnerable among the species studied. The strong reactions of several species to disturbance by ships suggest the need for areas with little or no disturbance in some marine protected areas, to act as a refuge for vulnerable species. This DVI can be used in combination with distribution data to identify the areas most vulnerable to disturbance.
This study presents an overview of the context and global impacts of recent International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations on the marine fuel oil refining industry, future marine fuel mix and ship emissions. IMO limited marine fuel sulphur content in both Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) and Nitrogen Oxide Emission Control Areas (NECAs) to 0.1% (wt. %) by 2015, and to 0.5% globally by 2020. It is anticipated that the newly implemented IMO regulations will help to mitigate negative impact of ship emissions on public health and environment. IMO regulations require significant changes to refineries to increase the production of low sulphur fuels through a shift to distillates, use of novel deep desulphurization techniques, or fuel blending. Changes to the refinery processes can bring forth increases in greenhouse gas emissions and high capital investments. Alternative fuels will need to meet the required reduction of air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in coastal areas. Alternative marine fuels consisting of liquefied nature gas (LNG) and biofuel may be suitable fuels to meet both targets. These two fuels are predicted to account for 50% of shipping energy demand by 2050, while the remainder will still be supplied by conventional heavy fuel oil (HFO)/marine gas oil (MGO). Switching to low sulphur fuels as a results of the new IMO regulations has led to measureable reductions in ship emissions generally. This fuel switching also resulted in changes in engine emission characteristics, especially on particulate matter chemical composition.
Promising approaches for indicative analysis of ballast water samples have been developed that require study in the field to examine their utility for determining compliance with the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments. To address this gap, a voyage was undertaken on board the RV Meteor, sailing the North Atlantic Ocean from Mindelo (Cape Verde) to Hamburg (Germany) during June 4–15, 2015. Trials were conducted on local sea water taken up by the ship's ballast system at multiple locations along the trip, including open ocean, North Sea, and coastal water, to evaluate a number of analytic methods that measure the numeric concentration or biomass of viable organisms according to two size categories (≥ 50 μm in minimum dimension: 7 techniques, ≥ 10 μm and < 50 μm: 9 techniques). Water samples were analyzed in parallel to determine whether results were similar between methods and whether rapid, indicative methods offer comparable results to standard, time- and labor-intensive detailed methods (e.g. microscopy) and high-end scientific approaches (e.g. flow cytometry). Several promising indicative methods were identified that showed high correlation with microscopy, but allow much quicker processing and require less expert knowledge. This study is the first to concurrently use a large number of analytic tools to examine a variety of ballast water samples on board an operational ship in the field. Results are useful to identify the merits of each method and can serve as a basis for further improvement and development of tools and methodologies for ballast water compliance monitoring.