I recently presented on the basics of AIS (both terrestrial and satellite) to a group at the 19th Biennial Conference Society for Marine Mammalogy. The workshop was on using AIS for the protection of the environment and in particular whale species.
Example of a mapped off zone set aside seasonally for Right Whale breeding off the US coastline
Although AIS has limitations in this field (i.e. not being able to force a whale population to migrate in a certain pattern), it does allow for traffic analysis to define areas of protection. Once those areas are defined, AIS can establish automatic alerts of vessels entering those zones, allowing for even more in depth reporting. Seasonal notices are put in place to ensure that vessels avoid certain sensitive and protected areas. Now with AIS, the effectiveness of those notices can now be measured.
AIS helps international organisations protect the environment and manage sustainable development activities through the use of AIS data to geo-fence environmentally sensitive or marine protected areas (MPAs) and record historical vessel tracks for reporting and investigative purposes. Analysts can research marine life movement patterns compared to ship traffic patterns to define protected areas that will ensure the least disturbance to the maritime community.