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Government Research Confirms the Success of the Ship Strike Rule

WDC and others celebrate a recent publication that notes that ship speed reduction measures reduced the deaths of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales by close to 90%. Ship strikes are the leading cause of death for this species. According to research conducted by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule successfully reduces the number of North Atlantic right whale deaths associated with vessel strikes.

In 2008 the Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule was enacted, requiring vessels greater than 20m (65 feet) in length to slow to 10 knots in specific areas when right whales were known to be present. In an unprecedented measure, the rule was released with a sunset date and is set to expire on December 9th, 2013.

In June of 2012, WDC and other wildlife conservation and animal protection groups filed a legal petition seeking to extend the existing 10-knot speed limit on the Atlantic coast beyond its December 2013 expiration date. Last December, WDC launched its Act Right Now Campaign to gain public support for stronger and more permanent regulations to ensure that right whales have the best chance to survive the threats they face.

“With 50,000 signatures so far, we are well on our way to prove that protecting the North Atlantic right whale is a priority for many” Emily Moss, WDC Act Right Now Campaign Lead.

With fewer than 500 North Atlantic right whales remaining, WDC and others hope that this report is the last piece of the puzzle needed to solidify the continued protection of this vulnerable species.

The article states: Overall, we (NOAA) estimated that vessel speed restrictions reduced total ship strike mortality risk levels by 80–90% with levels that were closer to 90% in the latter two of the four active vessel speed restriction periods studied.

“We have the support of the public, solid scientific data, reliable industry insight confirming that the ship strike rule does not harm the economy – now all we we’re waiting for is the Obama Administration to make a decision in favor of what is supported by science, the people and commerce.” Regina Asmutis-Silvia, WDC Executive Director and Senior Biologist.

WDC works to extend and expand protections for North Atlantic right whales to prevent them from going extinct. Find out what actions members of the public can take to ensure the survival of this fragile species at www.whales.org.

Learn about the ACT RIGHT NOW Campaign                                               Sign our petition 

Background on Right Whales

The current estimate for the entire population for this species is 500. image courtesy of NEAq

The North Atlantic right whale was decimated by commercial whaling in past centuries, and despite being protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1970, has not recovered.

• Adult female right whales reproduce slowly, giving birth to one calf every four years and not reaching reproductive maturity until age 8.

• The primary threats to imperiled right whales are vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, habitat degradation, rising noise levels, global warming, ocean acidification and pollution.

Learn about the ACT RIGHT NOW Campaign                                               Sign our petition