Nationwide Standard Pitched for Vessel Speed Zones Protecting Whales

With Congress placing the federal government on a six-year wait to put in place new regulations to protect North Atlantic right whales, two groups advocating for whales filed an administrative rule-making petition pushing the government to protect all whales in U.S. waters.

“Ship strikes are already a leading cause of whale mortality in U.S. waters and the threat is growing,” said Rick Steiner, a marine ecologist and Chairman of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s (PEER) board of directors.

Right whales are not unlike manatees in their tendency to swim slowly and deliberately at the water’s surface. He said large vessels have an audio effect in that the bow blocks engine noise and creates a quiet area ahead of the ship, leaving whales unaware.

“Simply put, many of our busiest coastal shipping routes are death traps for whales,” Steiner said.

The hope is that such standards would protect all whale species off the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts.

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