The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking for public comment on proposed changes that would expand mandatory speed restrictions for vessels to reduce the likelihood of collisions with north Atlantic right whales.
Ship collisions are a leading cause of North Atlantic right whale injury and death.
The proposed changes would expand mandatory speed restrictions of 10 knots or less to include most vessels 35 to 65 feet in length and broaden the areas and timing of seasonal speed restriction zones along the East Coast.
Comments on the changes are due by Sept. 30, and webinars have been scheduled in August to detail the proposed changes and answer questions. The webinars are set for 2-3 p.m. Aug. 10, 6-7:30 p.m. Aug. 16, and 6-7:30 p.m. Aug. 24. Register and provide written questions in advance.
“Collisions with vessels continue to impede North Atlantic right whale recovery. This proposed action is necessary to stabilize the ongoing right whale population decline, in combination with other efforts to address right whale entanglement and vessel strikes in the U.S. and Canada,” said NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Janet Coit in a statement.
Conservation group Oceana applauded the move, but said the proposed rule could go even further by removing the exemptions for federal vessels along with a commitment from NOAA to effectively enforce the regulations.