With only three weeks left until the Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule expires, Regina Asmutis-Silvia returned to Washington, DC to reiterate the importance of protecting the North Atlantic right whale to President Obama’s Administration. On October 23rd, the proposed extension for the Rule to Implement Speed Restrictions to Reduce the Threat of Ship Collisions with North Atlantic right whales was submitted to the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget for review. WDC and peer organizations hope that officials will respond favorably to their November 15, 2013 meeting, the public opinion that was gathered during the public comment phase of the government’s process, and the scientific evidence that was released in April showing that speed limits have successfully reduced the number of vessel-related right whale deaths by 80-90%.
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 (about 11 miles per hour) 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. It is imperative that this rule remain intact to protect this species.
Making sure this rule is renewed has been a major focus of our Act Right Now campaign. WDC alone had more than 75,000 supporters who signed their petition and submitted comments to NOAA in support of making the rule permanent. We’re hopeful that the administration will see the need to extend this rule as the data and support are undeniably in favor of keeping this protection in place. Remarkably, nearly 90% of the comments that were received, during the public comment phase of the proposal to make the rule permanent, were in favor of the proposed rule.
“We live in a global economy and we all rely on shipping” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Executive Director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation. “But that doesn’t need to happen at the expense of the survival of a species. The data show that the economic impacts of this rule are minimal but the benefit to whales and the environment is significant- it’s common sense.”
Ship strikes remain one of the top threats to the North Atlantic right whale’s survival. Although the whales have been protected as an endangered species for 30 years, fewer than 500 whales remain. The whales’ coastal feeding, breeding and nursing grounds along the U.S. east coast coincide with some of the nation’s busiest shipping ports, and each year, one or two whales are struck and killed or seriously injured. Many more ship strikes go unreported.