Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Whale Collisions Mean Speed Restrictions

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued a new regulation to protect North Atlantic right whales. Starting December 9, 2008, all vessels 65 feet (19.8m) or greater (subject to the jurisdiction of the United States) will be subject to a 10-knot speed restriction during certain times and locations, also known as Seasonal Management Areas (SMAs).

Right whales can collide with vessels which potentially results in serious injuries or death. On average, two of these mammals per year suffer from collision-related injuries. The current right whale population only ranges from 300 to 400. Additionally, vessels can be damaged or passengers may lose their footing or even be thrown from a boat during a collision.

All instances of significant vessel damage were reported from vessels traveling faster than 10 knots. Studies suggest that severe injuries to a whale can be decreased when vessel speed is 10 knots or less.

If it is necessary to deviate from the 10-knot speed restriction, the reason, speed, latitude and longitude of the area, and time and duration of the deviation, must be entered into the vessel’s logbook, which must be signed and dated by the vessel’s master.

Nautical charts, a compliance guide, and additional information is available at

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