From: Brandie M. Jefferson, Associated Press
Published June 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Boat Speed Limit Proposed to Save Whales

BOSTON — A federal agency wants to set a speed limit for boats along stretches of the East Coast to help protect endangered whales from deadly collisions.

Proposed regulations, to be filed Friday by the National Marine Fisheries Service, call for a speed limit of 10 knots, about 11.5 mph, for vessels 65 feet or longer in certain areas when the North Atlantic right whales are active.

"At that speed a collision is less likely to be lethal," agency spokeswoman Teri Frady said.

About 300 right whales live in the Northern Hemisphere. They have been listed as endangered since 1970.

Ship strikes are responsible for about half of all known, human-caused deaths of the mammals, which tend to swim near the water's surface and often don't notice their surroundings when they eat, according to the fisheries service.

The speed limit was among recommendations made by retired Coast Guard Cmdr. Bill Russell in 2001 in a report published for the federal government on reducing ship strikes. "I'm encouraged that they're finally doing something," Russell said.

After a public-comment period, the fisheries service will make a recommendation to the secretary of commerce, who makes the final decision.

In the whales' nursery grounds off southern Georgia and northern Florida, the mandatory speed limit would apply from Nov. 15 through April 15. Along their mid-Atlantic migratory route from northern Georgia to Rhode Island, the restriction would begin Nov. 1 and end April 30.

Off the Massachusetts coast, where right whales feed from January through July, restrictions would be implemented in Cape Cod Bay from Jan. 1 through mid-May; off Race Point at the northern end of Cape Cod from March 1 through April 30 and the Great South Channel from April 1 through July 21.

Federal vessels would be excluded.

Source: Associated Press

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