New Vessel Restrictions to Protect Whales Coming Soon

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Federal authorities have spent the past few years analyzing shipping industry rules and are now set to release new guidelines to help protect an endangered species of whale.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reviewed the speed regulations it uses to protect North Atlantic right whales and, according to spokeswoman Allison Ferreira, the agency will release new proposed rules in the coming weeks. . A public consultation process would follow.

Conservationists have long called for tougher shipping rules to protect the whales, which number fewer than 340 and are vulnerable to collisions with large vessels. Their population has declined in recent years due to high mortality and poor reproduction.

“Those are the two main threats to the species – entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with ships,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The new rules could extend existing protections for whales, which are currently protected by a network of “slow zones”, requiring sailors to transit slowly to avoid collisions with whales.

Some Slow Zones are mandatory while others are optional. Conservationists have long sought to make them all mandatory, and for more of them.

Some have also urged NOAA to apply the rules to vessels under 65 feet in length, which is the current limit.

More than 50 whales were struck by ships between the spring of 1999 and the spring of 2018, according to NOAA records. Collisions aren’t always fatal, but wildlife advocates have warned that sublethal collisions can reduce the likelihood of whales reproducing.

Marine associations have warned NOAA over the years to ensure that speed rules do not create unsafe conditions at sea.

Ferreira said any changes “would be based on the best information available and supplemented by public notice and comment.”

Whales were once plentiful off the east coast, but they were decimated during the era of commercial whaling. They have been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act for over 50 years.

The whales feed in New England and Canada and migrate to Georgia and Florida waters to give birth. They’ve been helped by protected areas for years, but scientists say warming ocean temperatures are causing whales to stray more frequently into shipping lanes in search of food.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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