A vessel strike is a collision between any type of boat and a marine animal in the ocean. All sizes and types of vessels—from large ships to jet skis—have the potential to collide with nearly any marine species. Strikes that result in death or injury to the animal may go unnoticed by the vessel operator or unreported to researchers that keep track of such incidents. The types of vessels documented in vessel strikes include large boats, such as cargo ships, whale-watching boats, ferries, and military vessels, and all manner of private watercraft used for commercial and recreational purposes. Most reported collisions involve large whales, seals, or sea lions.
Encouraging responsible vessel practices and understanding the distribution of marine mammals and sea turtles are two key components to reducing the risk of vessel strikes. To keep whales safe from ships, we work with the U.S. Coast Guard and shipping industry leaders to conduct mariner outreach, collect information on vessel strike events, and fund and coordinate aerial surveys and research programs to improve our understanding of animal distribution. For sea turtles, we work with other wildlife agencies to study the occurrence of vessel strikes to identify risk factors and strategies for reducing them.
NOAA Fisheries has taken many actions to reduce vessel strikes. These include:
We have also developed guidelines for viewing marine life to ensure their safety and yours.
Heed all regulations and guidelines regarding safe operation of vessels around marine animals. If a whale or turtle is in the vicinity of your vessel, travel at a slow, safe speed and leave the area if possible.
Here are some tips to avoid collisions:
Report marine life in distress
Immediately report an injured, entangled, stranded, or dead marine animal to your local stranding network. These networks are located around the country in all coastal states.
Report a violation
NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline ((800) 853-1964) provides live operator coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone in the United States to report a federal marine resource violation. During regular business hours, you also can call the closest NOAA Office of Law Enforcement field office to report possible violations.