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Plan pitched to reduce risk of whale-ship strikes

NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking comments on its proposal to make permanent the rules it implemented five years ago to reduce the number of collisions between ships and North Atlantic right whales.

“It is a proven method to reduce deaths and serious injury to these incredible creatures,” said NOAA Fisheries’ acting administrator Sam Rauch. “Making these protections permanent will make U.S. East Coast waters safer for right whales, and will allow them to reach full maturity, which is critical to their long-term survival.”

Right whales are among the most endangered species in the world, and are highly vulnerable to ship collisions. The rules, part of NOAA’s long-standing efforts to recover right whales, are currently scheduled to expire in December 2013.

The existing rules, which reduce an ocean-going vessel’s speed to 10 knots or less during certain times and locations along the East Coast from Maine to Florida, have reduced the number of whales struck by ships since 2008, when the speed limits began.

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