Conservation Group Pushes for More Whale Protections

HYANNIS – Oceana has created a petition calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to expand, strengthen and enforce required speed restrictions in areas where North Atlantic right whales are known to swim.

Oceana is a non-profit organization focused on preserving and restoring the world’s oceans.

According to Oceana, collisions with marine vessels are one of the two leading causes of injury and death to North Atlantic right whales.

Current vessel speeding requirements, they maintain, are inadequate.

Oceana analyzed vessel speeds from 2017 to 2020 in speed zones established by NOAA along the East Coast and found noncompliance was as high as almost 90% in mandatory speed zones, and noncooperation was as high as almost 85% in voluntary areas.

North Atlantic right whales are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with only about 360 North Atlantic right whales remaining.

More than 30 whales have been killed since 2017, which accounts for about 7% of their entire population.

Studies have found that the speed of a vessel is a major factor of death when vessel related collisions with North Atlantic right whales occur.

Slowing vessel speeds to 10 knots reduces a North Atlantic right whale’s risk of death from vessel strikes by between 80% to 90%.

In a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Oceana suggested expanding and establishing new Seasonal Management Areas, making compliance with Dynamic Management Areas mandatory, and expanding the Vessel Speed Rule to include vessels under 65 feet in length.

Oceana also suggested expanding Automatic Identification System requirements to include smaller vessels, improving compliance and enforcement of existing speed rules, and narrowing the federal agencies’ exemption from the Vessel Speed rule.

The organization issued a stark warning, saying “We need to act now before it is too late.”

Oceana has a goal of reaching 30,000 signatures before their August 31 deadline.

For more information or to access the petition, click here.

By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter

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