Atlantic waters off the coast of northeast Florida will soon be subject to new regulations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to try and lessen the fatalities of North Atlantic right whales. The rules the NOAA are moving forward with will apply to vessels between 35 and 65 feet long.
“Collisions with vessels continue to impede North Atlantic right whale recovery,” said Janet Coit, the Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “This proposed action is necessary to stabilize the ongoing right whale population decline, in combination with other efforts to address right whale entanglement and vessel strikes in the U.S. and Canada.”
Vessels within the allotted length criteria in specially designated management areas would be subject to brand new speed restrictions that aim to cut down on boat strikes. Affected commerce ports will include Jacksonville, Fernandina, and Brunswick along the Florida and Georgia coasts.
The most recent recorded boat strike on a North Atlantic right whale was in February 2021, when a vessel collided with a right whale calf going 20 knots.
Current estimates project that there are fewer than 70 calving female North Atlantic right whales left in the wild, out of a total population of under 340. Experts say that even with boat speed rules like the ones on their way for northeast Florida, non-compliancy is still extremely high, leading a continued number of right whale boat strikes.