New speed regulation begins for mariners transiting seasonal Northern Right Whale management area off North Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Coast Guard initiated enforcement of the Northern Right Whale strike reduction rule Tuesday to ensure that all vessels greater than or equal to 65 feet and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States are required to operate at speeds no greater than 10 knots in seasonal management areas.

This includes all vessels greater than or equal to 65 feet in overall length entering or departing a port or place. Whale strikes by ships continue to threaten the survival of the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. The National Marine Fisheries service initiated the strike reduction rule in response to continued mortality rates in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Coast Guard urges all mariners to always operate at safe speeds and ensure a proper lookout is posted in accordance with the Rules of the Road, especially during Right Whale season. The coastal waters between Altamaha Sound, Ga., and San Sebastian Inlet, Fla., are used as calving grounds by the critically endangered Right Whale. Female whales with very young calves may be encountered in offshore and coastal waters November through April.

In an effort to reduce the number of whales killed or seriously injured by vessel strikes, Coast Guard units throughout the First Coast will continue to communicate Right Whale advisories through local broadcast notice to mariners. The goal is intended to educate mariners about the whale’s endangered species status.

– It is a violation of U.S. law to intentionally approach a Right Whale within 500 yards.

– A minimum distance of 500 yards must be maintained from a sighted whale unless hazardous to the boat or its occupants.

– The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration recommends that all boaters assume that any whale sighted is a Right Whale.

– To view the compliance guide for right whale ship strike reduction rule, click here.

– Please report all Right Whale sightings and collisions to (877) 433-8299 or the Coast Guard via VHF channel 16.

– You may find additional information on NOAA’s new strike reduction regulation at:

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrike/

http://jmtxweb.org/

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