WDC is calling on people to take immediate action following news that US government authorities are considering loosening recently agreed regulations that help protect North Atlantic right whales along the east coast of America. In December, WDC succeeding in its campaign to permanently restrict ship speed limits for all vessels over 65 feet that travel along this stretch of coastline. However, it now seems changes to this decision are being looked at that could once again threaten already endangered North Atlantic right whales.
Listed under the Endangered Species Act for more than three decades, only around 500 North Atlantic right whales remain, making these whales among the rarest in the world. Collisions with ships, or ‘Ship strikes’ are one of the top threats to their survival, and so WDC launched its ‘Act Right Now’ campaign back in 2012, calling for the speed limit to be extended beyond December 2013. Over 75,000 WDC supporters responded by writing to the US government department responsible (NOAA). WDC was delighted by the Obama administration’s announcement that the ship speed limit will be kept in place but now questions why the restrictions might be loosened by NOAA when its own data indicates that the ship speed limits reduced the chance of a lethal strike of right whales by close to 90%.
Exclusions to the speed limit rule (including some dredged entrance channels and pilot boarding areas from New York to Jacksonville) are being looked at on the grounds of ship safety, something which WDC’s North American executive director, Regina Asmutis-Silvia, disputes.
“In the initial five years that the rule was active, there were no known fatal ship strikes of North Atlantic right whales in the speed restricted areas, and there were no reported cases of human injury or vessel groundings/collisions as a result of these speed restrictions”, she said. “As a licensed captain, I am aware that safety at sea is paramount, but I am also aware that international regulations allow me to deviate from any navigational rule to ensure safety. This is nothing more than a request to write a rule for the already allowed exceptions, and right whales will pay the price.”
WDC is once again calling on the public to take action. We are asking that people ’Act Right Now’ by going to our signing our petition before March 3rd 2014 and ask the US authorities not to weaken these vital protections and to protect this critically endangered species of whale.