As reported in the Washington Post, right whale 1909 was found dead on a North Carolina beach on November 24th, prompting renewed urgency in calls for speed limits for ships traveling along the mid-Atlantic coast.
Working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS), Nathan and its partner Earth Tech, Inc. are studying the economic impact on the shipping industry, commercial fishing, and consumers of proposed measures to protect Northern right whales¾one of the most endangered large whales in the world.
While Northern right whales are prohibited from being hunted and killed, some right whales die as a result of ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear along the U.S. East Coast¾from their calving grounds in Florida and Georgia to their primary feeding ground and nursery near Cape Cod and southern Maine.
NOAA fisheries reported 14 ship strikes between 1991 and 2002 that resulted in right whale mortalities. Right whales are particularly susceptible to strikes because they swim slowly and apparently take little or no evasive action when ships approach. To reduce the threat, NFMS is proposing routing changes and speed restrictions for non-sovereign vessels 65 feet and longer in areas and at times when right whales are likely to be present. The economic impact of these measures will be known when the study is completed in March 2005. Watch this space for the study findings.