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.
- They have been extended until February 11th because a group of 20 Northern Right Whales was spotted in the area over last weekend.
- The major risks to right whales have been ocean noise, ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.
Right whales are one of the most endangered marine mammals — scientists believe that no more than 411 remain. Several environmental groups are working in various ways to protect this endemic species.
- Last week, several groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, and Conservation Law Foundation announced an agreement with the developers of Vineyard Wind, a major offshore wind project in Massachusetts, to take specific measures during the project’s construction to protect these whales.
- 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.