Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Ship speed limits can save right whales

Environmental groups sue to force US government to expand conservation efforts in North Atlantic.

03 June 2014

Speed limits on ships have been of some help in saving the North Atlantic right whales from being killed in collisions, studies by both the US government and independent researchers suggest — and environmental groups are suing to have the areas where protection measures are in force expanded.

North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) are among the most endangered of all marine mammals: despite a recent population uptick, only about 450 remain. Ship collisions are the biggest known cause of right whale deaths, and reduced speeds have been reliably linked to a decrease in collisions and deaths. So in 2008 the US government introduced speed-limit zones known as seasonal management areas (SMAs). Historical data show that whale numbers are concentrated in particular areas of the US East Coast at certain times, such as calving season. At those times, ship traffic in SMAs around major ports and feeding, calving and nursing grounds is required to travel no faster than 18.5 kilometres per hour. 

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