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HomeLatest ArticlesUS Coast Guard introduces cetacean desk, enhancing cetacean safety in Salish Sea

US Coast Guard introduces cetacean desk, enhancing cetacean safety in Salish Sea

SEATTLE, USA – US Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound introduced a cetacean desk pilot program during a ceremony at Sector Puget Sound, February 21, 2024.

The goal of the four-year pilot program, which is hosted in the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), is to mitigate adverse impacts of maritime vessel traffic on endangered and threatened large cetaceans (whales) in the Salish Sea. The program is made possible through the Don Young Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022.

The pilot program will receive reports of whale sightings from mariners in the vessel traffic system managed by the VTS and provide near real-time data about the location of whales to these mariners through the Whale Report Alert System (WRAS). In providing situational awareness, the program aims to reduce instances of ship strikes and whale disturbances in the Puget Sound region. It also aligns operations with the Canadian Coast Guard Marine Mammal Desk, providing a consistent whale reporting and notification regime for operators of large ships throughout the Salish Sea.

“Sector Puget Sound is honored to be able to host this pilot program,” said Coast Guard Capt. Mark McDonnell, captain of the port for Puget Sound. “We look forward to continuing our close relationship with our federal, tribal, international, and state partner agencies and working with local non-government organizations, as we provide enhanced situational awareness on cetacean location to VTS users.”

“The new cetacean desk aligns with our regional goals to help endangered whales and ships share the waters of the Salish Sea,” said Rachel Aronson, the Quiet Sound program director at Washington Maritime Blue. “When mariners call in a sighting to the VTS, that sighting will be used to help other mariners make safer choices. Quiet Sound members from the federal, tribal, state, port, maritime and conservation sectors are excited to support and help grow this pilot program.”

“The US Coast Guard is stepping up for mariners, whales, and other wildlife in Puget Sound, coordinating and efficiently sharing valuable insight” said Grace Ferrara, a marine mammal biologist in NOAA’s Fisheries office in Seattle.

The cetacean desk will continually evaluate its performance and look to improve effectiveness in protecting at-risk whales. The Coast Guard’s pilot program will collaborate with federal, tribal, international, state partners and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as consult recognized tribes and the maritime industry both in initial program development and as the program evolves in the future.

Additional footage can be found at the following DVIDS links:

DVIDS – Video – Cetacean Desk (

DVIDS – Video – Cetacean Desk (



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