There are only around 500 North Atlantic right whales alive today. In an effort to further protect these critically endangered animals, a recent NOAA regulation required large vessels to reduce speed in areas seasonally occupied by the whales. The policy of notifying--but not necessarily citing--speeding vessels in protected areas was effective in lowering their speeds, helping to protect these magnificent creatures from ship collisions, while keeping punitive fines to mariners to a minimum.
A NOAA regulation, instituted in December 2008, requires vessels 65 feet or greater in length to travel at speeds of 10 knots or less in areas seasonally occupied by the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. In a NOAA-led study, published today, researchers examined the compliance with speed regulations by 8,009 individual vessels that made more than 200,000 trips between November 2008 and August 2013, mostly in areas where the endangered whales are known to travel. All vessels were remotely monitored by radio signals sent from the vessels themselves.
Virtually all ships received notification of the speed regulations. The owners or operators of 437 of these ships received non-punitive notifications of violations and were reminded of the regulation, or cited after they were observed violating the restrictions. Twenty-six of them received citations and were fined.
Compliance with the regulation was low at the beginning of the regulatory period but steadily improved, according to the study. Vessels that received fines or citations later showed improved compliance. Informational letters issued by NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement, monthly public summaries of vessel operations, and direct at-sea radio contact also were effective in keeping the vessels in compliance with the law.
"We've shown that notifying the mariners of their responsibilities, along with issuing citations when applicable, results in widespread compliance," said
|Contact: Jerry Slaff|