An important new use for AIS surfaced in a recent study by the Wildlife Conservation Society. In a multi-member partnership of the WCS, NOAA, the US Coast Guard, Space Quest, Google and SkyTruth, research was performed that points to the possibility that AIS data could help to minimize the negative effects of shipping on wildlife.
AIS now provides continual data on global vessel traffic for navigational safety and vessel communication.
The WCS proposed that with small improvements, AIS could also identify areas where large sea mammals, like whales and walruses, and vessels are likely to meet. This information could be disseminated and, thus, reduce vessel strikes. The study involved tagged whales near the Panama Canal and how alternative shipping routes and vessel speed recommendations could be based on AIS data.
As 90% of world-wide trade is transported on the water, understanding how this vessel traffic impacts marine wildlife is critical. Conservation impacts are felt in a variety of ways: fatal strikes, introduction of pathogens or invasive species through ballast water, habitat destruction while at anchor, air emissions, noise, and fuel spills. Fatal strikes was the main focus of the paper.
Underwater noise was also cited as an area that could be considered in order to avoid disruptions to marine mammal behavior and migration and, as well, avoid the noises that decrease fishery catches.
WCS commented on some modifications that would provide more consistent and reliable data from AIS, including standardizing data input, improving coverage, and establishing an international data repository to assist conservation research and analysis. This AIS data would be useful in assessing or modeling actual or potential environmental impacts, monitoring environmental compliance, and describing recommended vessel use of a marine area.
One example cited is the increasing ship traffic that is expected in an ice-free Arctic which will endanger a heretofore untouched environment and marine life habitat. A cooperative program already exists in Alaska utilizing AIS transmitters and Virtual Aids to Navigation to develop the Next Generation Arctic Navigational Safety Information System. This work began in 2014 and is being carried out by the Marine Exchange of Alaska and the Coast Guard R&D Center.
Another example mentioned of how this system could work is the network of 13 detection buoys installed in 2008 in the 55-mile stretch of commercial shipping lanes in Boston Harbor. In addition to speed restrictions in the harbor, these buoys listen for North Atlantic Right Whales' calls and send warnings to ships in the area regarding the location of the mammals. A leading cause of death to these slow moving mammals is collisions with vessels.
Many of PortVision's customers use our custom data solutions & analytical reporting to help protect the environment. These efforts include reporting vessel speeds to reduce vessel emissions as well as monitoring vessel traffic around particular regions of interest.