Protecting The World’s Rarest Whales
Drawing by Louise Jennison
To help protect the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale population, NOAA Fisheries Service is reminding mariners that the start of calving (birthing) season begins Nov. 15, and continues through April 15. The calving season is particularly critical because pregnant mothers and new-born calves are susceptible to ocean-surface traffic.
“Protecting right whale mothers and their young is critical to the recovery of the population,” said Barb Zoodsma, NOAA Fisheries Service right whale biologist. “The loss of any right whale is of concern, and we ask for everyone to adhere to measures that protect this critically endangered species.”
Each year, pregnant females migrate southward more than 1,000 miles from feeding areas off Canada and New England to the warm, calm, coastal waters off South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida to give birth and nurse their young. These waters are the only known calving area for the species.
Collisions with ships and entanglement in fixed fishing gear are the two greatest threats to the recovery of North Atlantic right whales, which is why it is important that all mariners and fishers are aware of the regulations.
Beautiful and majestic species from the far reaches of the world are extinct as a direct result of commercial activities, the only difference today is you can help. The following are action items to help get the message out.
- Use the resources listed below as the basis for your weekly safety meeting.
- Spend time with your lookouts finding ways to improve detection.
- Discuss the topic with your fellow watchstanders.
Shore Side support;
- Ask your HS&E department to print NOAA’s letter in their newsletter.
- Discuss the topic at the watercooler, meetings and during ship visits.
- Call the ship and ask what you can do to provide support.
- Leave comments below with any tips, ideas or thoughts on this important topic!
- Federal law prohibits approaching or remaining within 500 yards of right whales.
- Recommended routes are in place for mariners entering or leaving the ports of Jacksonville and Fernandina, Fla., and Brunswick, Ga. The routes are expected to reduce the chances of ship strikes with whales.
- Speeds of 10 knots or less are recommended when consistent with safe navigation.
- Always wear polarized sunglasses and stay alert in right whale habitat. Although right whales are large animals, they have dark skin, no dorsal fin, and can remain at, or just below the water’s surface making them extremely difficult to see.
- Steps to take to avoid collisions
- Ship Reporting System Fact Sheet
- Northeastern Reporting System Boundaries
- Southeastern Reporting System Boundaries
- Right Whale Sightings off the:
- Recommended Vessel Routes
- Ship Strike Reduction Homepage
- Office Of Protected Resources – NOAA
- Whale Disentanglement Team – NOAA
- The International Whaling Commission
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