Thursday, May 26, 2011

Going the Right Speed for Right Whales

Harriet Corbett/New England Aquarium
Taken under a Scientific Research Permit
issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service/NOAA
The New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Researchers recently published the vessel compliance rates to right whale protection measures in the calving ground off Florida and Georgia. Prior to the mandatory speed regulations that were implemented in December of 2008, there were voluntary speed and routing protection measures. Researchers were interested in discovering the number of vessels complying prior to 2008 voluntarily versus the number who complied after the rule was made mandatory. Finding this out helps us to determine whether this rule needs to remain mandatory when it expires in 2013. 

The compliance rates were obtained by collecting Automatic Identification System (AIS) data during the winter calving season, which allows researchers to monitor vessels in the area. Researchers report that compliance rates for speed restrictions rose by 59% when the rule was made mandatory! This leads us to believe that this speed rule should remain mandatory, because ship strikes are the leading cause of death for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, it is a rule that is critical to this species survival and recovery.

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