After years of court battles and advocacy efforts by Defenders and its partners, the federal government proved it means business when it comes to protecting right whales. The government announced yesterday its first notices of violation and proposed fines against ships breaking the Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule. Ship strikes are the leading cause of death for this population of only about 400 animals. This important rule was put in place in 2008 in order to avoid potentially deadly collisions, and requires ocean-going vessels of 65 feet or greater to slow to 10 knots or less in areas where highly endangered North Atlantic right whales are known to congregate.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) said that the proposed penalties range from $16,500 to $49,500 depending on the frequency of violations – dollar amounts that hopefully will cause more oceangoing vessels to realize that compliance with the law is good for both the whales and their own pocketbooks.
The timing couldn’t be better for this highly endangered animal.
November 15 marked the start of the species’ winter calving season, with right whale moms arriving in the waters off Georgia and Florida to give birth to the next generation of right whales! Because right whale moms and calves tend to spend more time at the surface, they are especially vulnerable to vessel collisions in the busy waters of the Southeast.
In a population so small, every animal counts, and enforcement of this crucial law helps give North Atlantic right whales a fighting chance for survival.
Blog post by Sierra Weaver, attorney for Defenders of Wildlife who works to protect endangered right whales.