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Environment and Outdoors

Report Finds Many Vessels Along East Coast Exceed Speed Limits Meant To Protect Whales

A new report finds that a majority of vessels along the Atlantic coast are flouting speed limits put in place to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

Conservation organization Oceana tracked vessel speeds between 2017 and 2020 in special speed limited zones, established by NOAA to protect whales from ship collisions.

There are no mandatory slow zones off the immediate Maine coast, but the report finds about 65% of vessels are failing to observe voluntary slow zones in the Gulf of Maine.

The best compliance was reported in waters near Cape Cod, with about two-thirds of vessels observing a mandatory 10 knot speed limit.

The worst compliance was seen in waters between North Carolina and Georgia, with 90% noncompliance.

Oceana also reports that calving and nursery grounds between Georgia and Florida featured about 70% noncompliance.

Along with fishing gear entanglements, ship strikes are thought to be a major cause of right whale mortality.

The whales currently number about 360 worldwide. Ongoing conservation efforts include revised regulations for lobster and fishing gear.