Environment

Alaska’s oceans are our home and we are committed to practices that help preserve the marine environment and provide needed information to protect its inhabitants. Below are some programs and partnerships that assist us in our efforts.

Green Marine

Screenshot of the Green Marine Award

Since 2018 Alaska Marine Highway System has been working with Green Marine to reduce our environmental footprint by taking concrete actions.

Green Marine is a voluntary environmental certification program for the North American marine industry. It is a rigorous, transparent and inclusive initiative that addresses key environmental issues through 14 performance indicators.

To receive our certification, AMHS had to benchmark our annual environmental performance through Green Marine environmental program’s exhaustive self-evaluation guides. We also had to have our results verified by an accredited external verifier and agree to publication of our individual results. Click here to read more about AMHS and the Green Marine program.

Ocean Acidification Project

Screenshot of the AMHS Online Sailing Search © Alaska Marine Highway System

The Alaska Marine Highway/DOT is collaborating in a unique partnership to help understand ocean acidification in Alaska. A carbon measurement system was installed on the M/V Columbia to collect data during it’s 1,600 km run between Bellingham, WA and Skagway, AK making it the most extensive ferry-based CO2 system in North America.

Since the Columbia has provided year round service on a standard route, it provided an ideal research platform to study ocean chemistry across time, and across an immense stretch of coastline. The AMHS had the capacity to be a partner, and supported the mission to provide important marine data for current and future fisheries.Through this endeavor, a near-shore coastal observatory network is being built linking instruments along the southeast Alaska and British Columbia coasts. Partners include the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center, Tula Foundation/Hakai Institute, Alaska Ocean Observing System and NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

Benefits to the Alaska Marine Highway and DOT:

Instrumenting the Columbia passenger ferry provides a unique and exciting media, public outreach and educational opportunity for thousands of tourists and residents. Visual aids such as posters and hand-outs have been created and will be available on the passenger decks of the ferry, potentially reaching thousands of tourists and residents. 

The ocean acidification research will produce a unique dataset for the State of Alaska, and provided important information for future installations on passenger vessels. It will provide the resident of Alaska with essential spatial and temporal patterns for current and future fisheries.  As well as provide strategies to help prevent further ocean acidification and it’s detrimental effect on Alaska fisheries.  

Benefits to Alaska Fisheries Economy:

Employment in the seafood harvesting industry in Alaska employs 100,000 jobs annually with the Southeast offering the most monthly jobs.   Commercial fish harvesters contribute 31,800 jobs and off-season employment provides 9,000 jobs.  Alaska harvests 6 billion pounds of seafood and is leading the industry in ‘sustainable’ caught wild salmon.

Wildlife Awareness

Keeping watch for wildlife

AMHS understands the impact vessel traffic has on marine mammals and is committed to minimizing disturbance to marine mammals from our ferries to the extent it is safe to do so. AMHS complies with all federal and state/provincial regulations throughout Alaska, Washington State and Canada that protect mammals. In order to implement best practices, AMHS has enlisted real-time whale sightings notifications and maps on all of it's vessels. We currently participate in the following:

Whale Alert Program

Since 2011, cruise lines, pilots, and biologists in Southeast Alaska have worked together to produce whale maps to improve situational awareness for cruise ship bridge teams. In 2016, mariners and biologists began sharing sightings in real time using Whale Alert Alaska & B.C Cetacean Sighting Network. Whale Alert is the result of a growing network of non-profit institutions, government agencies, shipping, and technology companies with the common goal of reducing ship strikes of whales.

Whale sightings are obtained from real-time observations reported to Whale Alert Alaska &  B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network by trusted observers (pilots, bridge teams, and state ferry captains) using the WhaleReport app to alert commercial mariners to the presence of whales so that they may take mitigation measures, such as slowing down or diverting course, to reduce the risk of disturbance and collision. Whale Alert Alaska is made possible by a partnership between the National Park Service, NOAA Fisheries, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and software developer Conserve IO. The B.C Cetacean Sightings has built a diverse network of over 7,000 coastal community members who regularly report their cetacean (whales, dolphin, and porpoise) and sea turtle sightings.  The mission is to monitor the abundance and distribution of cetaceans in British Columbian, Washington, and Alaskan waters and reduce the risk of vessel strike and disturbance.

Dolphin & Whale 911

The Dolphin & Whale 911 app enhances accurate and timely reporting of stranded or injured marine mammals in Southeast AK. This app, used on all of the AMHS vessels, allows us to:

    • Report dead, injured or entangled marine mammals by connecting you to the nearest stranding response hotline, so that trained responders and veterinarians can treat the animal.
    • Send a photo of the marine mammal along with GPS coordinates to the marine mammal stranding network.
    • Identify the kind of animal by providing an electronic field guide of marine mammals found in Southeast AK.
    • Help live and dead stranded marine mammals by providing you with a list of “do’s and don’tsâ€� or tips on what to do when you find a live or dead stranded dolphin, whale, or seal.
    • AMHS also has similar reporting plans with the BC Marine Mammal Incident Response Network.