V.3 Realigning the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme to Reduce the Risk of Ship Strike to Right and Other Baleen Whales

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David N. Wiley

Michael A. Thompson

Richard Merrick

Collision with ships is a leading mortality factor for endangered whales. The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) is both a major shipping route and an area heavily used by endangered whales. Because the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) crosses the sanctuary, the area is a potential “hot spot” for collisions between whales and ships. To reduce collision risk, the team of research coordinator David N. Wiley, spatial analyst Michael A. Thompson, and oceanographer Richard Merrick took the following steps: they (1) plotted the distribution and relative abundance of North Atlantic right whale and other baleen whale sightings within the Sanctuary and adjacent waters; (2) identified high-use whale areas; (3) reconfigured the current TSS path through the Sanctuary to spatially separate whales and ships; and (4) calculated the possible risk reduction. As compared to the original TSS, whale sightings in the reconfigured TSS were reduced by 81% and right whale sightings by 58%. Industry transit times increased 9–22 minutes. The TSS shift was accepted by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization in December of 2006 and became active in July of 2007. This was the first shifting of a TSS to mitigate the collision of vessels and endangered whales in the United States.


Wiley, David N., Michael A. Thompson and Richard Merrick. 2006. Realigning the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme to Reduce the Risk of Ship Strike to Right and Other Baleen Whales. Courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In “5th Iteration (2009): Science Maps for Science Policy-Makers,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Elisha F. Hardy. http://scimaps.org.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.