Industry and Scientists
Working on Plans
To Reduce Threats
To Endangered Whales
NMFS Northeast Region
N E W S
What: A panel of experts available to the media to discuss ongoing efforts to protect whales from collisions with ships in U.S. coastal waters. The panel members are participating in a two-day workshop at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London.
Who: Chris Mantzaris, Deputy Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries in the Northeast U.S.; Scott Kraus, Director of Research, New England Aquarium; Bruce Russell, Co-Chair of the NOAA Fisheries' Ship Strike Committee and an advisor to International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW); Joe Pelczarski, Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Office and the Gulf of Maine Council; and several port authority representatives.
When: April 11, 1:30-2:30 pm
Where: The Officer's Club on the USCG Academy campus in New London
Why: North Atlantic right whales are among the most endangered large mammals on earth, with approximately 300 animals remaining. Right whales spend much of their time in coastal waters where they are often found in and around shipping lanes. Collisions with ships (called "ship strikes") are one of two well documented human-related threats to the continued existence of North Atlantic right whales. (Entanglement in fishing gear is the other human-related threat.) For information about right whales and the federal plan to protect these endangered animals, see: http://www.nero.nmfs.gov/whaletrp/
A Ship Strike Committee under the leadership of Bruce Russell (Commander, US Coast Guard, retired) is working with the shipping industry to develop a plan for protecting right whales from ship strikes. The committee (established by NOAA Fisheries and funded by NOAA Fisheries, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and New England Aquarium) is analyzing possible management measures, including speed restrictions, re-routing of ships, and other measures to protect right whales from ship strikes. A draft report ("Discussion Draft: Right Whales and Ship Management Options") is available on the NOAA Fisheries whale plan web site (www.nero.nmfs.gov/whaletrp/); under "Elements of the Plan" click on "Ship Strike Reduction/Northeast Implementation Team." The report is also available on the IFAW website (www.rightwhales.org).
The two-day workshop in New London is an attempt to produce a set of detailed recommendations that can be delivered to NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for protecting right whales under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. The recommendations may include (1) restricting vessel speed and/or routes when right whales are present in shipping lanes; (2) research and development projects needed to detect and/or predict the presence of right whales in shipping lanes; and (3) research studies of right whale behavior in relation to ships.
Participants at the workshop include representatives from: the shipping industry; eight port authorities (Portland, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, South Carolina, Georgia, Jacksonville Florida, and Port Canaveral Florida); federal agencies; state officials from Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Georgia and Florida; the Canadian government; and advocacy groups including International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society of the United States, Center for Marine Conservation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and World Wildlife Fund.