Mexican and American organizations have joined forces to urge a change in a traffic lane so as to avoid the risk of large vessels traveling through the whale shark migration path colliding with marine wildlife off the Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
According to a press release, they say that high vessel traffic of oil tankers and cruise ships travel through the whale shark aggregation area as well as where manta rays, five different dolphin species, sailfish and sea turtles exist.
“We are not looking to do anything radical,” said Rafael de la Parra Venegas, executive director of Blue Realm in Mexico. “In 2007, NOAA and U.S. Coast Guard shifted ship traffic lanes in Boston Harbor to reduce the risk of collisions between large ships and whale sharks. We want to do the same, adjust the ship traffic lanes further away from these areas, to improve safety and reduce the chances of collisions with ocean life or with other smaller boats and tourists.”
The interested parties, including Blue Realm, Seacology in California, as well as Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota and Georgia Aquarium, propose:
1. Deployment of an AIS (Automatic Identification System) allowing them to track every ship cruising in the zone. The antenna was set July 17 on top of the observation tower in Isla Contoy, and is on test.
2. Written notice to ship operators using the area to request a 10-mile deviation off East Isla Contoy, (ideally 12 miles), since sometimes they navigate within about 5 miles.
3. Gather collaborative efforts from national and international organizations to participate in ecosystem preservation and tourist visitor protection.