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Rule aims to reduce whale/ship strikes

NOAA officials have issued a speed regulation that will implement new measures to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales. The regulation, issued Oct. 8, requires ships 65 feet or greater to reduce speed to 10 knots in areas where the whales feed and reproduce, as well as along their migratory routes. The goal of the regulation is to reduce the risk of ships striking whales.

Slow-moving right whales are vulnerable to ship strikes, since their migration routes cross major East Coast shipping lanes. Along with existing measures to prevent entanglement in fishing gear, the new rule is the most comprehensive approach NOAA has taken in its effort to help right whales recover.

The regulation requires vessels to travel at 10 knots or less during the seasons whales are expected to be present in designated areas along the East Coast. It will be up for renewal in five years, after scientists assess its effectiveness. The rule will go into effect in early December.

This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue.