Ship strike risk and noise impacts to marine fauna

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Quantification of risk from shipping to large marine fauna in Australia


David Peel (CSIRO), Joshua Smith (Murdoch University), Simon Childerhouse (Blue Planet Marine) and Christine Erbe (Curtin University CMST)


Project background – why is this important?

Given the substantial increases in coastal/port development along the Australian coastline, and associated rise in recreational and commercial shipping (Bureau of Infrastructure, 2015), there is an increasing potential for adverse interactions with marine species. Two risks associated with these activities for large marine fauna are ship collisions and the impact of chronic ocean noise. Research is urgently needed to quantify these risks in both a spatial and temporal context to help better understand the magnitude of the problem and develop and implement appropriate management strategies.

This project aims to provide applied science by developing a spatial framework to model interactions between shipping and large marine fauna in Australian waters to inform decision-making by the Department of Environment in its application of the EPBC Act. This research will also be of utility to other Regulatory Agencies including, and not restricted to, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the Great Barrier Reef Authority (GBRMPA). Two different components of risk will be explored – ship strike and chronic shipping noise. From analysis of these risk profiles, areas for priority management action can be identified and potential strategies can be implemented to minimise the impact of vessel strike and noise on marine fauna.


Project development – Phase 1 and 2

Phase 1 (2015) – Scoping of potential species for ship strike risk analysis

The objective of the first phase of the project was to complete a review and consultation process to select a small subset of large marine fauna species for which:

  1. ship strike was likely to be having an appreciable impact;
  2. there existed substantial information for species distribution and abundance, and other behavioural aspects, such as migration patterns, breeding cycles, etc.; and,
  3. the species was listed under the EPBC Act as threatened to some degree.

Phase 2 (2016/17) – Modelling ship strike risk to Australian marine fauna

This phase of the project will provide quantitative estimates of relative and, where possible, absolute risk of ship strike through space and time, based on the integration of data on (1) shipping type, density and speed (i.e., from AIS data) and (2) species distribution/habitat models.



Project funding

This work is being undertaken for the Marine Biodiversity Hub, a collaborative partnership supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme (NESP).



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