For the most current program information, see Protecting Blue Skies and Blue Whales.
This page contains background information prior to 2018. For additional background information, follow the links below.
Large ships are responsible for substantial amounts of worldwide emissions of black carbon, nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter, sulfur, air toxics, greenhouse gases, and substances that deplete ozone in the upper atmosphere. Shipping emissions have been included in District emission inventories since 1994, and the District has been working to raise awareness and calling for voluntary and regulatory measures to control these emissions. In Santa Barbara County, NOx emissions from ships traveling off our coast are a concern, as NOx emissions are involved in the formation of ozone. Since the County has not attained the state ozone standard, a continued focus on reducing marine shipping emissions is important to help the County attain the health-protective ozone standard.
Reducing ship speeds cuts emissions of NOx and other pollutants, reduces the risk of fatal ship strikes on whales, and reduces underwater acoustic impacts. In 2014, The District and partners launched a Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) Trial incentive program, which was modeled after successful programs at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. See 2014 VSR Trial Report. The 2014 Trial was followed by a yearlong effort in 2015 by the Marine Shipping Working Group under the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) Advisory Council to develop strategies to further reduce air pollution and protect whales in the region. The 2014-15 efforts of the Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies partnership were recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with a national Clean Air Excellence Award in 2016.
In its final report to the CINMS Advisory Council, the Working Group expressed unanimous support for a second VSR incentive program. The partners (the District, CINMS, Ventura County APCD, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and Volgenau Foundation), implemented a 2016 VSR Program than ran from July 1, 2016 – November 15, 2016. Due to the continued success of the program, the partners further expanded the VSR incentive program to include the San Francisco Bay Area in 2017.
Also in 2015 and 2016, the District was a client for a group project by Masters Students at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. The group presented findings of its study, titled “The Value of Non-Market Goods: Whale Conservation and Human Health Benefits from Vessel Speed Reduction in the Santa Barbara Channel,” in April 2016. For more information see the project website.
2017 VSR Recognition Ceremony
In March 2018, the partners recognized the eleven participating shipping companies at a ceremony for the 2017 VSR program. The ceremony was held at Bannings Landing near the Port of Los Angeles. See news release here.
Partner agencies and organizations: Lisa Fasano (BAAQMD), Jack Broadbent (BAAQMD), Mary Byrd (SBCAPCD), Mike Villegas (VCAPCD), Aeron Arlin Genet (SBCAPCD), Kris Sarri (National Marine Sanctuary Foundation), U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), William Douros (NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries), Lisa Volgenau (Volgenau Foundation), Tyler Harris (VCAPCD), Chris Mobley (CINMS), Michael Murphy (BAAQMD)
2016 VSR Recognition Ceremony
In January 2017, the partners recognized the ten participating shipping companies at a ceremony for the 2016 VSR program. The ceremony was held at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. See news release here.
Recognition ceremony sponsors and participants (left to right): Steven D. Gaines (National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Trustee, and Dean for UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management), Jessica Morten (with NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, or CINMS), Chris Mobley (CINMS Superintendent), Sean Hastings (CINMS), CT Chen (Evergreen Line), Mary Byrd (Santa Barbara County APCD), Tyler Harris (Ventura County APCD), Ignacio Rodriguez (K Line), Mike Villegas (VCAPCD Air Pollution Control Officer), Roderick A. Wagoner (MOL America), Aeron Arlin Genet (SBCAPCD Air Pollution Control Officer), Eduardo A. Cestafe (Hapag Lloyd), Lisa Volgenau (Volgenau Foundation), Lyz Hoffman (SBCAPCD), Rose Muller (Starcrest LLC), Naomi Kovacs (representing Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf, an SBCAPCD Board Member), Lauren Volgenau Knapp (Volgenau Foundation)
Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies Forum September 2014
- See agenda
- See presentation by Wayne Miller of University of California at Riverside (PDF file) on research showing emission-reduction benefits of ship speed reduction. Also view paper “In-use Emissions Test Program at VSR Speeds for Oceangoing Container Ship.”
Speakers and participants in the forum (left to right): Brad Winney (Conserve.IO, Whale Alert developer), Linda Parks (Ventura County 2nd District Supervisor), Mike Villegas (Ventura County APCD), Dave Van Mullem (Santa Barbara County APCD), Brian Shafritz (SBCAPCD), Sean Herron (CINMS), Kristi Birney (Environmental Defense Center), Wayne Miller (UC Riverside), Sean Hastings (CINMS), TL Garrett (Pacific Merchant Shipping Association), Steve Gaines (UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management), Elgin Pallay (Maersk Line), Sharyn Main (Santa Barbara Foundation), Mary Byrd (SBCAPCD), Mike Murray (CINMS)
This free forum was sponsored by Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the Environmental Defense Center, and the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.
Additional Background Information
- The District’s Board receives updates periodically on the program, see:
- Whale Advisories calling for ships to voluntarily reduce speeds in the Santa Barbara Channel when whales are present are issued periodically by NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
- Blue Whales & Blue Skies Act, introduced in U.S. Congress Sept. 6, 2017, and our news release announcing its introduction. Although this bill wasn’t finalized, it laid the groundwork for more recent legislation, such as SB 69 – Ocean Resiliency Act of 2019.
- Blue Whales & Blue Skies Media Clips
For more information, contact the District Public Information Officer, Lyz Hoffman