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Vaquita. Photo Thomas Jefferson

Scientific Committee gives first ever official species extinction warning

Photo: Thomas Jefferson We have welcomed the urgent call by experts to protect the vaquita...
blue whale

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Humpback whale © Christopher Swann

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Long-finned pilot whale

Unusual activity witnessed before pilot whale stranding

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WDC Wins Again – Ship Speed Limit Rule Extended to Save Whales

NOAA announced today that they will permanently extend the Final Rule Implementing Vessel Speed Restrictions to Reduce the Threat of Ship Collisions With North Atlantic Right Whales

“As we reflect on all that we’ve done to help protect this species over the years, and this past year specifically, we can’t help but feel proud as we celebrate the news today.  Through the robust response of our supporters, coupled with our presence in Washington, WDC has played a major role in helping to save this species!”  said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Executive Director of WDC-North America.

On December 6, 2013, NOAA announced that they will permanently extend the Final Rule Implementing Vessel Speed Restrictions to Reduce the Threat of Ship Collisions With North Atlantic Right Whales. This regulation mandates a 10-knot ship speed rule on the East Coast of the US for vessels over 65 feet long, protecting the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale from extinction. The rule, enacted in 2008, was put in place with an unprecedented five year sunset clause and was set to expire on December 9, 2013.  A petition to extend the rule was filed last year by WDC, The Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife.

Fewer than 500 North Atlantic right whales remain and ship strikes remain one of the top threats to this species’  survival. On December 9th, 2012, we launched Act Right Now, a one year public facing campaign to increase protections for right whales and bolster support for the extension of the ship strike rule.  As a result, WDC was responsible for generating more than half of the 145,000 public comments NOAA received asking for the rule to be extended.

The future of the rule was subject to public comments as well as industry input.  This outcome was largely supported by our actions and other conservation and animal rights groups coupled with public response and opinion.  The petition, we filed last year, asked the government to continue the ship speed reduction rule as well as expand the parameters, both temporally and spatially, to which it applies, all in order to better protect this imperiled species.

“For the past year we have been focused on making sure this rule stayed in effect because it is crucial for the survival of the North Atlantic right whale.” Said Emily Ryane Moss, Act Right Now Campaign Lead. “We are thrilled that policy makers have come to the same conclusion and took action to protect them.”

The whales’ coastal feeding, breeding and nursing grounds coincide with some of the busiest shipping areas in the United States.  A recent NOAA publication determined that ship speed reduction measures reduced the chance of a lethal strike of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales by close to 90%.

“What we have learned in the past five years is that the rule is not a significant economic burden or unsafe for the industry, but it is a huge benefit in helping an endangered species recover”  Asmutis-Silvia commented. “Extending the existing regulation not only reduces the risk of ship strikes to whales, but also reduces noise and air pollution, which is a benefit to whales and humans alike.”