Saturday, December 20, 2008

Online Guide For New Ship Speed Regulation Available

An online guide to a new ship speed limit designed to protect imperiled right whales will hopefully help speed up compliance while encouraging large ships to slow down.

The compliance guide for the right whale ship strike reduction rule made effective this week is available at:

·NOAA Fisheries’ Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Web site:

·NOAA Fisheries' Southeast Region's Right Whale Conservation site:

·NOAA Fisheries Northeast Region's Ship Strike Reduction site:

The speed restriction established by the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requires vessels 65 feet or longer to slow to 10 knots or less while traveling in designated critical habitat areas along the U.S. Atlantic coast. The rule went into effect Tuesday, Dec. 9.

North Atlantic right whales are slow swimmers that frequently rest just below the surface and often do not respond to the sounds of approaching ships. Ship strikes are the leading cause of mortality for the species. Other threats to survival include entanglement in commercial fishing gear, collisions with smaller recreational boats and disease.

The regulation specifies November to March as the calving season. The warm coastal waters off the Georgia and northeastern Florida are the only known calving grounds for these rare aquatic giants. The whales are especially vulnerable during this time due to heavy traffic in Georgia’s shipping lanes, where the whales tend to be found. It has been estimated that the loss of one or two female right whales a year could lead to extinction of the species within a century.

Federally listed as endangered, there are only 350-400 north Atlantic right whales left in the world.

Georgians can help conserve right whales, as well as other animals not legally hunted, fished for or trapped and their habitats, through buying wildlife license plates featuring a bald eagle or a ruby-throated hummingbird. They can also donate to the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff. Both programs are vital to the Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state funds. Visit for more information, or call Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).

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