Last winter and spring, oil spills and vessel accidents along the West Coast reiterated the need for improved vessel traffic management along this coastline. The New Carissa, a freighter, ran aground and leaked bunker fuel near Coos Bay, Oregon. Another large cargo vessel, the Hollandic Confidence, almost sunk off San Francisco Bay and had begun taking on water before it was safely escorted ashore.
NOAA, represented by the Sanctuary, and the U.S. Coast Guard have been working since 1997 with stakeholders to create a proposal for managing large vessel traffic such as cargo ships in the Sanctuary and beyond that can reduce the risk of oil spills, groundings, and collisions. Last year the proposal was unanimously approved by the Navigation Safety Advisory Panel to the Coast Guard, a key step which has allowed execution of the plan to begin. (See Fall 1998 issue for proposal details).
To date, implementation has moved forward in two key areas: traffic separation schemes (TSSs) and the distance vessels travel from shore. The plan recommended modifications to two TSSs &endash; the systems that help organize vessels as they approach major ports. Proposals to shift the southern approach of the San Francisco TSS slightly to the west (to reduce risk of groundings along the San Mateo coast) and to extend the Santa Barbara Channel TSS by eighteen miles were included in a "Federal Notice of Proposed Rule-Making," published in June. The notice will obtain final public comments before the modifications are carried out.
Recommendations to move vessels further offshore require both federal and international approval because the shipping routes are in international waters. This part of the management package, including moving cargo ships out to 13-20 nautical miles offshore, received the approval of four U.S. departments (NOAA, the Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, and the State Department) earlier in the year. The Coast Guard and NOAA then took it to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations body, in June. A decision by the IMO is expected later this year.
Here's an important phone number to memorize: 1-888-DFG-CALTIP. That way, if you see someone poaching wildlife or polluting, you can call and report it to the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) immediately. Thousands of Californians have taken advantage of this free, easy way to help protect the state's natural resources since CalTIP's creation in 1981.
CalTIP is an acronym for "Californians Turn in Poachers." This DFG anti-poaching, anti-pollution program enables the public to report anonymously any illegal wildlife poaching (killing) or incidents of polluting that they witness.
At the heart of the CalTIP program is the toll-free phone number (1-888-DFG-CALTIP), staffed by DFG dispatchers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. When a citizen calls the CalTIP hotline to make a report, the dispatcher takes down all necessary information and relays it to the game warden in the area where the alleged violation occurred. The warden investigates the report and, depending on circumstances, may either issue a warning, write a citation, or effect an arrest.
"The large majority of callers are not interested in the reward; they're just trying to help out," explains John Robinson, CalTIP Coordinator for Santa Cruz County. The program was created to give Californians an opportunity to protect the state's resources. Because poaching is a crime of secrecy and stealth, its full extent in California is impossible to identify completely.
"With the decline in DFG wardens throughout the state, it is important for the public to assist and participate in CalTIP," Robinson says. Game wardens simply cannot adequately patrol 159,000 square miles of California terrain, including 1,100 miles of coastline, 30,000 miles of rivers, and 4,800 lakes.
The program can benefit the Sanctuary, too. "We suffer from the same shortage of staff and funding that DFG does," says Sanctuary Enforcement Coordinator Scott Kathey. "Citizen participation in a program like CalTIP can help limited dollars go farther to protect our marine environment."
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Last modified on: August 6,