It’s official! As of yesterday, December 9, 2008, all ships 65 feet or longer must slow to a speed of 10 knots or less in certain areas where right whales are known to gather. The 10 knot speed restriction extends 20 nautical miles around major ports in the mid-Atlantic. This is where, according to NOAA researchers, 83 percent of right whale sightings occur.
The speed restrictions apply in the following approximate locations at the following times; they are based on times whales are known to be in these areas:
- Southeastern U.S. from St. Augustine, Fla. to Brunswick, Ga. from Nov. 15 to April 15
- Mid-Atlantic U.S. areas from Rhode Island to Georgia from Nov. 1 to April 30
- Cape Cod Bay from Jan. 1 to May 15
- Off Race Point at northern end of Cape Cod from March 1 to April 30
- Great South Channel of New England from April 1 to July 31
Right whales are one of the most endangered species in the world with only 300 to 400 known in existence. Their slow movement and time spent at the surface makes them highly vulnerable to collisions with ships. The rule, which is in effect until 2013, will be assessed by scientist in order to determine its effectiveness.