The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(WILMINGTON, N.C.) — The Coast Guard advises large vessel operators that Operation Right Speed is in effect during the annual right whale migration in the mid-Atlantic waters from Nov. 1 to April 30.
Coast Guard Sector North Carolina personnel caution boaters regulations require vessels 65-feet or greater to operate at speeds 10 knots or less in designated right whale migration routes and calving grounds.
The designated areas can be found at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration site at http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/staff/news/headline-rightwhale.html
The Coast Guard is working closely with NOAA with a shared goal of conserving and rehabilitating the whale’s population.
As an ocean steward and the federal government’s primary at-sea enforcement agency, the Coast Guard is responsible for conserving the endangered North Atlantic right whale. The whales are among the most depleted of all large whales worldwide with the global population being approximately 300-400.
Coast Guard efforts are largely focused on educational measures to ensure mariners are aware of these areas, followed by warnings. Civil or criminal penalties may be issued to those who violate speed restrictions in the seasonal management areas where right whales are likely to be found.
Historical records indicate an average of two reported deaths or serious injuries to right whales occur due to ship strikes each year, but it is likely unreported incidents occur.
To report a suspected violation in the seasonal management areas, call the national hotline at 800-853-1964.
The North Atlantic right whale is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.