We are extremely pleased to report that the Final Rule (pdf) to implement Operational Measures of the North Atlantic Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Strategy has passed the final hurdle in the rulemaking process and will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, October 10.
The rule will go into effect in 60 days--early December--just in time for the start of the winter calving season in the southeast United States. The crux of these measures will be the requirement to slow ships to 10 knots or less within 20 nautical miles of port entrances and in other major right whale habitats.
Despite the fact that it is not as strong as initially proposed due to political wranglings, which I covered in an earlier post, it is a monumental and unprecedented step towards reducing the possibility of vessel strikes of right whales and other large whales living in our near shore waters. We applaud NMFS for pushing this rule forward despite heavy opposition from the administration and the shipping industry. The science is strong and the need is great to give these endangered whales a safer haven. For more details about the rule, visit the NOAA shipstrike page.
Photo by Harriet Corbett/New England Aquarium, published in the book The Urban Whale: North Atlantic Right Whales at the Crossroads.