The Importance of Communication in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Washington


The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) was established to protect natural and cultural resources from the danger of large-vessel oil spills.

PetroglyphsCourtesy: Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Members from the sanctuary shared results of the oil spill risk studies and discussed an "Area to Be Avoided" (ATBA) proposal with representatives of all stakeholders. Compliance was voluntary. Interviews were held with representatives and stakeholders with the purpose of creating educational materials.

Methods, Tools, and Data

Sanctuary staff members conducted 28 personal interviews with representatives from U.S. federal, state, local, and tribal governments, as well as the shipping industry, ports, mariners, environmental groups, and the public. 

The sanctuary tracked vessel routes using radar data and geographic information system (GIS) technology both within and around the area of the sanctuary. Vessels that did not comply with the ATBA were contacted and provided with educational materials.

Related Methods

Observation is an information-gathering technique based on personal or recorded observation through systematic documentation of visible social activity and behavior.
A standardized list of questions that may be administered formally or informally by mail, telephone, Internet, or in person to collect specific information from multiple individuals.

Discussion of Results

  • With the help of stakeholder interviews, educational flyers were generated describing why vessels should avoid the area (i.e., to avoid risk of groundings and oil spills), as well as the natural and cultural characteristics of the sanctuary
  • Vessels and shipping companies responded favorably to communications from the sanctuary staff. Voluntary compliance has been very high
  • Educational efforts and "friendly reminders" have increased the effectiveness of the ATBA and the levels of compliance. There is currently a 90 to 95 percent compliance rate

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