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Right Whale Off the Coast of Massachusetts in 2018 Photo: Michael Dwyer, AP
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wasted no time returning from the shutdown and extended restrictions on shipping in an area off Cape Cod on the way into Boston Harbor to protect the highly endangered Northern right whale.
The “Ship Strike Rule” mandates speed restrictions of no more than 10 knots for vessels 65 feet or greater in certain locations and at certain times of the year along the east coast of the United States.
The restrictions were set to expire off the coast of Massachusetts yesterday because most of the whales should have migrated south for the winter by now.
The Internation Fund for Animal Welfare has been working to develop fishing gear innovations such as sinking or neutrally buoyant line to reduce and prevent whale entanglement, with additional innovations in the works such as “ropeless” traps with a submersible buoy that goes down with the lobster trap, is geo-trackable, and retrieved via acoustic release technology.
And there is more good news for right whales — there have been juveniles spotted off the coast of Georgia — four so far. This is not a huge number but it is an improvement over last year when not a single right whale calf was spotted.
Why This Matters:We don’t have to choose between whale conservation and offshore renewable energy. Vineyard Wind will, in addition to limiting construction activities as needed, also invest $3 million to develop and deploy innovative technologies and undertake scientific research to further safeguard the marine mammals. This is a template for additional offshore wind projects that will be developed up and down the east coast.
Why This Matters: Climate impacts are costing our economy already due to severe weather events such as wildfires and hurricanes. Even though increasing ocean acidification may not be visible to the eye, its costs are just as devastating.
At the end of December, an appeals court in Washington, D.C. upheld the designation by President Obama of the first national “monument” in the Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Monument off the coast of Cape Cod, an area teeming with unique and endangered wildlife (such as North Atlantic Right Whales) and due to its topography of deep canyons and extinct volcanic peaks.
Why This Matters: This is a clear win for the conservation of natural resources. The area covered by the monument is full of ocean wonders and is as deserving of protection as similarly precious places on land — like Yellowstone or Yosemite.