Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Resource Protection section includes Regulations, Incident Response, Marine Debris, Wildlife Disturbance, Water Quality, Habitat Protection, and Permits
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Resource Protection section includes Regulations, Incident Response, Marine Debris, Wildlife Disturbance, Water Quality, Habitat Protection, and Permits
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Resource Protection section includes Regulations, Incident Response, Marine Debris, Wildlife Disturbance, Water Quality, Habitat Protection, and Permits Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Resource Protection section includes Regulations, Incident Response, Marine Debris, Wildlife Disturbance, Water Quality, Habitat Protection, and Permits

Area To Be Avoided

"...here there is no place to land on from out of the grey water. For without are sharp crags, and round them the wave roars surging, and sheer the smooth rock rises, and the sea is deep thereby, so that in no wise may I find firm foothold and escape my bane, for as I fain would go ashore, the great wave may haply snatch and dash me on the jagged rock - and a wretched endeavour that would be."
- Homer, The Odyssey

Area To Be Avoided Map In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus is cast adrift and finds himself at the mercy of the elements. Over the years many mariners have found the lee shore of the Olympic Coast, with place names such as Destruction Island and Graveyard of the Giants, their bane. The adoption of the Area to be Avoided (ATBA) off the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary was conceived as a buffer to allow help to arrive to adrift vessels along this rocky and environmentally sensitive coast. Despite advances in technology and our best efforts at preventing maritime accidents there will always be a certain amount of risk involved in marine shipping.

A catastrophic discharge of oil or hazardous materials remains one of the greatest threats facing the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Reducing this threat has always been one of the sanctuary's highest priorities. Olympic Coast, sits at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a major thoroughfare linking the important North American ports of Seattle, Tacoma, and Vancouver with trading partners all around the Pacific Rim. The juxtaposition of such an important international trade route and a national marine sanctuary requires the balancing of political, social, economic, and natural resource issues.

The sanctuary, designated in May 1994, worked with the U.S. Coast Guard to request the International Maritime Organization (IMO) designate an Area to be Avoided (ATBA) on the Olympic Coast. The IMO defines an ATBA as "a routeing measure comprising an area within defined limits in which either navigation is particularly hazardous or it is exceptionally important to avoid casualties and which should be avoided by all ships, or certain classes of ships". This ATBA was adopted by the IMO in December 1994, "in order to reduce the risk of marine casualty and resulting pollution and damage to the environment of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary". The ATBA went into effect in June 1995, and has been updated in 2002 and in 2012.

The most recent change to the ATBA, effective on December 1, 2012, advises operators of vessels carrying oil or hazardous materials as cargo or cargo residue, and all ships 400 gross tons and above to maintain a 25-mile buffer from the coast. The ATBA provisions recognize that some vessels greater the 400 gross tons may be engaged in allowable activities that occur predominantly within the Sanctuary, e.g. fishing or research. Thus the ATBA is targeted at vessels that are transiting through the area versus conducting operations.

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has created an education and monitoring program with the goal of ensuring the successful implementation of the ATBA. This includes ensuring that updated information on the ATBA is placed on nautical charts and publications. Sanctuary staff worked closely with industry and government agencies to develop an ATBA flyer which is distributed to vessel owners and managers that transit the area.

Since February 1998 the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has a maintained a vessel traffic-monitoring program tracking compliance to the ATBA provision. When vessels are identified as not complying with the provisions of the ATBA, OCNMS and the USCG Captain of the Port have sent out plots of the vessel's transit as well as correspondence under joint signature. Response from the marine industry to the program has been very favorable. Many of those responding commented on how the correspondence was useful in educating their crews.



Contact for page content: George Galasso
photo of sunset on the ocean
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