Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Conservation Groups Back In Court To Expand Ship Speed Rule To Protect Endangered Right Whales


Conservation groups were back in US federal district court recently, working to obtain a deadline for US government action on a 2022 proposed expanded vessel speed rule designed to protect North Atlantic right whales.

A reply brief filed last Friday emphasizes the immediate need for a stay, in place since September 2022, to be lifted so the case can proceed before this endangered species’ numbers dwindle further.

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation of North America:

“Vessels slowing down can save whales and people from deadly collisions, but sadly, the only thing slowing down is progress on releasing this rule. Politics is now outpacing entanglements and vessel strikes as the biggest threat to right whales.”

The North Atlantic right whale population is declining too fast for birth rates to keep up, with only around 360 whales surviving today, the groups contend. Vessel strikes are one of two main human-caused threats to the whale, along with fishing gear entanglements. The vessel strike threat is currently mitigated only by a 2008 speed rule that applies to vessels 65 feet/20m long and longer, limiting speeds to 10 nautical miles per hour in certain locations and seasons.

If finalized as proposed, the updated rule would apply to vessels starting at 35 feet/10.7m in length, would establish new seasonal speed zones in line with current right whale distribution, and would require vessels to comply with temporary dynamic speed zones triggered by acoustic or visual observations, according to the groups.

Erica Fuller, senior counsel at the Conservation Law Foundation, said:

“Right whale mothers and calves starting their journey to their feeding grounds in New England waters face a deadly gauntlet of vessel traffic. It’s long past time for the Biden administration to finalize an expanded vessel speed rule so whales can swim safely, free of lethal ship strikes.”

John Liang
John Lianghttps://www.deeperblue.com/
John Liang is the News Editor at DeeperBlue.com. He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.