NOAA–Today, NOAA Fisheries announced proposed changes to vessel speed regulations to further protect the North Atlantic right whale from death and serious injury from collisions – part of a multi-pronged approach to stabilize and recover this endangered population. The changes would extend and extend the current mandatory seasonal speed limits of 10 knots or less in designated areas of the ocean to most ships 35 to 65 feet in length.
In addition, the agency is publishing a draft “roadmap” for public comment on on-demand or “ropeless” fishing gear, outlining potential ways to increase the use of this technology in commercial fishing off the east coast of the United States. The concept roadmap uses lessons learned from on-demand fishing gear that are emerging around the world.
“These two efforts are part of our North Atlantic Right Whale Road to Recovery, a strategy that encompasses all of our ongoing work across the agency and working with our partners and stakeholders to conserve and rebuild the North Atlantic whale population. said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries and acting assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at NOAA. “Despite the many challenges we face, including climate change, we need to find solutions to reduce threats to marine mammals while supporting the livelihoods and economies of our fishing communities that put healthy food on our tables.”
For decades, ship collisions and entanglements in fishing gear have been the two leading causes of whale injury and death. Researchers found that between 2003 and 2018, in cases where a cause of death could be determined, all deaths among juvenile and adult whales were due to human activities. After the first year of life, whales do not live long enough to die a natural death. Scientists declared an “unusual mortality event” for North Atlantic right whales in 2017, which is defined as a significant die-off of a population of marine mammals, requiring immediate response. In the past two and a half years, at least four ship strikes have killed or seriously injured North Atlantic right whales in U.S. waters.
The proposed speed changes for ships would include additional ships from 35 to 65 feet in length and widen the spatial boundaries and timing of the seasonal speed limit zones along the East Coast of the United States. Vessels less than 65 feet in length have been responsible for five of the 12 documented fatal strikes in U.S. waters since the first speed limit came into effect in 2008, demonstrating the significant risk associated with this class of vessel and the need to lift speed limits. expandable with smaller ships.
The draft no-wire roadmap identifies the status and remaining research and technology needs for on-demand fishing gear, and includes considerations of the economic, safety, operational, regulatory and enforcement challenges and opportunities related to the implementation of on-demand fishing. On-demand systems provide an alternative to seasonal fisheries closures that are used to significantly reduce the risk of entanglement of marine life in the fixed rig/sperm whale fishery. These fisheries typically use rope to connect surface buoys to equipment on the ocean floor for retrieval.
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered large whale species. The latest preliminary estimates suggest there are fewer than 350 left, with fewer than 100 reproductively active females. Ship collisions, entanglement of fishing gear, climate change and other threats all pose challenges to this endangered species. NOAA Fisheries and our partners are collaborating and committed to preserving and rebuilding the North Atlantic right whale population through a variety of innovative techniques to study, protect and restore these endangered whales.