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October 9, 2008

Doing the right thing for endangered whales

Posted: 11:45 AM ET

After years of both scientific study and political wrangling, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued a regulation designed to protect North Atlantic right whales.

The long debated “Ship Strike Rule” requires large commercial ships (65-plus feet in length) to reduce their speeds to ten knots when traveling through right whale habitat. There are only 300-400 of these whales left in the world, making it among the most endangered marine species.

“The ship strike rule, based on science, is a major addition to NOAA’s arsenal of protections for this endangered species," said Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., NOAA administrator. (Lautenbacher has just announced his resignation from NOAA.)

Along the mid-Atlantic states, speed restrictions will extend 20 nautical miles near major ports. NOAA says 83 percent of right whale sightings are within 20 miles of land.

Right whales are very slow moving, and their migration routes take them across busy shipping lanes along the eastern seaboard of the United States.

The shipping restrictions only apply in certain months of the year, when the whales are likely to be present. The mammals spend summers around Cape Cod, Massachusetts and the Bay of Fundy in Canadian waters. They travel south off the coast of Georgia and Florida in the winter months, where females give birth.

Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing and lobster gear are currently the biggest threats to right whales.

The rule is expected to go into effect in early December. NOAA says the rule will be re-examined after five years so scientists can evaluate its effectiveness.

While conservation groups welcome the measure, they wish it had been even stronger.

“While we had hoped a 30-nautical-mile zone would be established around major ports, we are pleased by the U.S. government’s decision today to establish this new whale ship strike regulation,” said Jeffrey Flocken, Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Washington office.

IFAW is urging the U.S. government to use on-the-water enforcement and to step up new technologies for right whale protection.

The ship strike rule spent more than a year stranded in the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the Vice President, as objections from the shipping industry were considered.

–Marsha Walton, CNN Science and Technology producer

Filed under: Animals • environment • Politics

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Band Width   October 9th, 2008 11:50 am ET

Jesum crow, that's a 1900×1100 image!

(Right click to view the linked image if you don't believe me)

Thumbnail, please!

Caroline   October 9th, 2008 1:09 pm ET

We should do everything we can to protect the whales. Thank you NOAA for acting.

Franko   October 9th, 2008 2:16 pm ET

"There are only 300-400 of these whales left in the world"
Rong, similar number in North Pacific.
Large number Rong Whales in Southern Oceans
Add other Baleen Whales for entertainment.

Too slow, too fat, too dumb, to get out of the way.
No wonder Shipping Lane kill
Eco Warrios should ship a few Rong Whales, North, from Southern oceans,
to inprove Whale of a fitness and Whale an an IQ. Wright thing to do.
The result of Whale of a Mister Wrong. Whale of a Right calf. Whale of a cigar

Set up a giant fish farm, domesticate Cow Right, to produce Whale of a milk
You have to factor economics into this,
More expensive shipping, to provide cow watching, entertaining,
paid for , on the job, vacations for the scientists.

Jackie in Dallas   October 9th, 2008 3:29 pm ET

Thank goodness, at least some progress. Unfortunately, it may be too little, too late.

Allison   October 9th, 2008 3:53 pm ET


That's very sad that you feel that way. So you think it is
OK that greed comes before saving an endangered species?

They were here way before we were. Thank you
NOAA for protecting a species that is estimated to
only be at 300-400.

And Franko..speaking of being too slow, too dumb....
the word is "improve" not inprove. Too bad there are not
just 300-400 of you left in the world.

Jackie in Dallas   October 9th, 2008 4:14 pm ET


Your ignorance is only exacerbated by your poor spelling and grammar.

Right whales are a part of the order Cetacea, which includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Although dolphins and porpoises have been shown to do relatively well in captivity, many whales (with the exception of a couple of the smaller ones) do not. Many are krill feeders that must sweep broad areas of the oceans in order to eat, and all are too large to set up farms for. That is what the oceans are - and they've been IN them for a lot longer than we have been ON them!

As for numbers, you are in one aspect correct, although the right whales of the North Atlantic and the right whales of the Pacific are actually different subspecies. In any case, both are highly endangered by man's fishing practices and by man's encroachment into their breeding areas, not to mention irresponsible behavior which is poisoning vast areas of the oceans.

This legislation, which is the minimum we needed to do, is overdue. And ironically, will not raise the cost of shipping that much, since whale strikes make up a significant portion of the repair bills for ships. Slowing the ships down in critical areas increases the safety for both.

Oh, and there is already a healthy industry for whale watching that is in danger of being destroyed if we do not do what we can to conserve the whales!

Sea Fisherman   October 9th, 2008 4:34 pm ET

To Franko:

Your statement belies your lack of intellectual depth. Don't make public arguments for or against something that you cannot effectively articulate beyond the ramblings of a mad man.

S Callahan   October 9th, 2008 5:32 pm ET

Thank you NOAA.

Whales existed before humans, it's only right we give them some respect....

julie   October 9th, 2008 7:50 pm ET

I guess the military does not know that storms can stir up mus at the coeans bottom and it causes whale sonar to get screwed and so they whales beach and die.

Instead of us taking all the time why don't they protect them instead we do not need to use the whole ocean they were there first. We are just the guests and should learn to share.

Elizabeth   October 9th, 2008 9:55 pm ET

I wish humans were capable of appreciating the beauty, value, and validity of other species, like whales, dolphins, polar bears, caribou and moose, who don't deserve to be exterminated by humans.

Derek   October 9th, 2008 11:44 pm ET

I like how Franko spells "wrong" as "rong."

But apart from that, I am very glad that we are taking measures to protect oceanic life. I think humanity needs to take care of how it treats other species as well as the environment in general. I am saying this not as an environmentalist, but as a concerned individual of our society. We all have a responsibility here as we are the wardens of our planet.

Now hopefully that didn't come off as "ramblings of a mad man," ha.

Franko   October 10th, 2008 3:52 am ET

"Whales existed before humans, it’s only right we give them some respect"
Had their time, all become extinct, just a matter of time, per intelligent design

"There are about 400 North Atlantic Right Whales"
"Greenland right whale or arctic whale." "7,500 inhabiting Beringia "
"population of 900 right whales in the Sea of Okhotsk" (Pacific ocean)
"Around 12,000 Southern Right Whales ." (was only ~ 300 in 1920))
"ikely that all four species will be placed in one genus"

Capt. David Williams   October 10th, 2008 4:04 am ET

The truth is that whales struck by ships were likley previosuly injured by undersea earthquake. They can not determine which way to swim to avoid danger. Chances are they would die at sea, be culled by sharks, or end up as a roting carcuss on a shore somewhere.

Slowing the ships down will not change the numbers of whales struck by the vessels since the problem is not speed, it is previously injured whale.

Capt. David Williams
Deafwhale Society Inc.

Kwisin   October 10th, 2008 9:33 am ET

Aristotle wrote of observing marine mammals beaching themselves... but he left out the part aboot sonar...
go figure...

Franko   October 10th, 2008 11:17 am ET

Whales can be more than 100 tons. (500 people equivalent)
Enormous carbon footprint, while mowing the oceans, commuting
Fat and slow, cannot sink when dead.
Polluting the ocans, not even unsing one square of tissue paper.

Another example of EcoFraud, pretending very small numbers, when not.

Zeppo   October 10th, 2008 12:11 pm ET

The whales will have no problen adjusting to the ICE AGE that is coming when the melting ice of Greenland halts the ocean currents, it is the people that are going to hate the constant cold.

Franko   October 10th, 2008 4:56 pm ET

"Cruel To Be Kind"
If we stop the ships for every whale, screech the tires for every squirrel
Unintelligently designed animals, and stupid little Gods are US.
Whale, with more intelligence than a slug, is squirrel of a survivor.

Cowboy Way   October 20th, 2008 1:56 pm ET

Franko, I suggest you step out in front of a moving bus just to get a better understanding of the situation.

Franko   October 21st, 2008 1:18 am ET

Whale of a misrepresenters are the Whale of a Guppy idolizers.

Capt. David Williams; "The truth is that whales struck by ships were likley previosuly injured by undersea earthquake. They can not determine which way to swim to avoid danger."

Cannot hear is comparable to cannot see for US.
Undersea earthquakes, submarine sonar, occasional meteor
Whale of flea tapping on the Whale of a Guppy's eardrum ?

Inerfere with trade and commerce ?
Slow the boats ? Slow your car for an indolent mosquito ?
Let me exttinct the last one !

Horses with broken legs are shot.
Deaf Whale has a Right Whale of a suicide ?

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