Speed Limits Save North Atlantic Right Whales
The speed a ship is going means the difference between life and death for whales. New research has found that if ships are travelling at less than 10 knots then no rare right whales are killed by collision.
When large vessels travel at more than 10 knots, whales are pulled towards the ships’ hulls and propellers with increasing force as the ship goes faster. The whales are also more likely to be run into by ships travelling at speed.
In 2008 America introduced seasonal speed restrictions in right whale feeding areas, migratory corridors and calving areas off the east coast. The original proposals were watered down though – the corridors protected were narrower than the actual migratory routes for example.
Researchers David W. Laist, Amy R. Knowlton and Daniel Pendleton found that since the speed restrictions have been in place, absolutely no right whales (Eubalaena glacialis
) have been killed by ships. They call for the protection for migratory corridors to be widened and the speed limits retained indefinitely. They also want more seasonal restrictions to protect humpback whales. There are people suggesting that dredged channels be exempt from the restrictions, but the researchers point out that because whales must travel across those channels they are at no less risk of being struck and so the dredged channels should stay.
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered marine mammals, with a population of just 500.
You can read the research paper, published in the latest issue of Endangered Species Research
, at http://www.int-res.com/articles/esr_oa/n023p133.pdf
Photo credit: Wildlife Trust, NOAA Permit #594-1759
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