Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule Takes Effect Sunday

WASHINGTON — The Coast Guard reminds operators of vessels 65 feet or greater in length that the Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule takes effect Sunday, requiring those vessels to slow down while operating in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic waters where North Atlantic right whales are known to migrate, calve and nurse.

The Coast Guard has worked closely with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service division during the past decade to further both agencies’ shared goal of conserving and rehabilitating the North Atlantic right whale population.

“The Coast Guard, in coordination with NMFS, has a long history of protecting living marine resources and will continue to take action to protect the right whale from ship strikes and other threats,” said Steven Tucker, the U.S. Coast Guard’s deputy chief of Marine Protected Species Enforcement. “Key among those measures is Coast Guard communication with mariners in areas where right whales congregate or transit.”

The speed restrictions, which are based on the migration pattern of the right whale, will be in effect in coastal waters from Rhode Island to Georgia beginning Sunday and continuing through April 30, 2010. Maps of these areas and a compliance guide are available online at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrike. To report a suspected violation in the seasonal management areas call the national hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

The Coast Guard, as America’s Ocean Steward, has developed the strategic plan Ocean Guardian and the programmatic framework Ocean Steward to support recovery of living marine resources including endangered species and marine mammals.

Protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the North Atlantic right whale is one of world’s rarest animals, with approximately 400 individuals in its entire population. The potential for the species to recover is reduced when Right whales are injured by ship strikes or entanglements resulting from human activity.

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